Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

October 20, 2005

Regulation by Lawsuit?

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:59 pm

Today the House of Representatives passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which restricts the ability of municipalities to sue gun manufacturers for damages caused by criminal misuse of products which are legally manufactured and legally sold. (In other words, it will prohibit suits like these.)

For the moment, put aside the question of whether this law is a good idea (See here and here for a discussion of the rationale behind the law).

Instead, consider the fact that over the decade or so that this law has been under discussion, proponents of the law always claimed that the lawsuits in question were attempts by cities to impose gun control measures by lawsuit that could not be imposed through the democratic process (i.e., by having elected legislatures pass laws), and to impose gun control measures nationwide, when they properly had jurisdiction only within their own municipal borders. Opponents of the law, of course, claimed that these lawsuits were only attempts to hold gun makers responsible for the damage caused by their products. (Leave aside also the question of whether the damage was caused by the “products” as opposed to the people using the products.)

Now that the law has passed, one of the leading opponents has — most likely inadvertently — conceded the other side’s argument! According to the AP,

“This legislation will make the unregulated gun industry the most pampered industry in America,” said Kristen Rand, director of the Violence Policy Center.

(Emphasis added.)

Now obviously it’s preposterous to claim that the gun industry is actually “unregulated.” It’s one of the most regulated manufacturing industries there is, right up there with pharmaceuticals and automobiles. Clayton Cramer has a list of sample regulations, and this is only a partial list — the actual regulations would fill several books. (UPDATE: Clayton now has a links to two large collections of BATFE regulations, here and here — the PDF version of these, which are literally books, take up 365 and 475 pages, respectively. And not one owrd of those regulations will be cancelled or changed by the new, 23-page statute.)

Clearly, by the term “[un]regulated,” Kristen Rand cannot mean that the gun industry is not subject to regulations by Congress, state legislatures, and bureaucrats — because it is, has been for a long time, and this new law will do nothing to change that. But she does say that this law makes the industry “unregulated,” and all this law does is say that if gun manufacturers comply with all the regulations regarding manufacturing and distribution, they aren’t liable for manufacturing and distribution. (They can still be sued if they violate those laws — e.g., if they knowingly sell a gun to a felon who flunks a federal background check — or if their products are actually defective.) So Rand must mean that if cities can’t sue to get gun makers to change their practices, the gun industry is unregulated!

Clearly, she has conceded the point that proponents of this law have been making all along — that the purpose of the lawsuits was to impose through the court regulations that could not be passed through the democratic process.

3 Responses to “Regulation by Lawsuit?”

  1. Resistance is futile! Says:

    Carnival of Cordite #35
    It’s that time of the week once again… gather ’round for the 35th Carnival of Cordite! It’s a weekly hodgepodge of posts from around the blogosphere dedicated to guns, shooting, hunting, defense, and the law and politics of the Second

  2. Eric’s Grumbles Before The Grave Says:

    Carnival of Liberty XVII
    Welcome to the 17th edition of the Carnival of Liberty. We’ve had this going for just about 4 months now. The first edition was on July 4th, 2005, the 229th anniversary of the unanimous Declaration of Independence of the 13…

  3. Baboon Pirates Says:

    Carnival Of The Vanities #162
    Welcome to Baboon Pirates and the 162nd Carnival Of The Vanities! My nom de blog is El Capitan, and I’ll be the ringmaster/sideshow operator/skeevy carny for this week’s festivities.

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