Make the gunmakers accountable | Arkansas Blog

Monday, June 24, 2013

Make the gunmakers accountable

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 6:49 AM

These ideas wouldn't go far in Arkansas politics, of course, but worth noting anyway are a couple of NY Times op-eds on ways to, if not deter misuse of guns, help compensate innocent victims:

* MAKE GUNMAKERS LIABLE: Retired Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau says it's time to overturn laws that shielded gunmakers from lawsuits.

In a 1999 case, Jack B. Weinstein, a federal judge in Manhattan, wisely articulated that principle as it should apply to handgun makers. “The duty of manufacturers of a uniquely hazardous product,” he wrote, is to “take reasonable steps” that would “reduce the possibility” that firearms would “fall into the hands of those likely to misuse them.” That basic principle was gutted when Congress caved to the gun lobby and passed the 2005 immunity law.

The 2005 law also deprived New York and other states of their right to protect, or at least compensate, their citizenry by imposing civil liability on those manufacturers and dealers who failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the abuse and illegal trafficking of their weapons.

* COMPENSATE GUN VICTIMS THROUGH A TAX: Two law professors propose a system of compensation through a tax.

For every gun sold, those who manufacture or import it should pay a tax. The money should then be used to create a compensation fund for innocent victims of gun violence.

This proposal is based on a fundamentally conservative principle — that those who cause injury should be made to “internalize” the cost of their activity by paying for it. Now, gun manufacturers and sellers are mostly protected from lawsuits by federal law.

As it happens, a model for this approach already exists. Under the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, those injured by vaccines are eligible for compensation from a fund financed by an excise tax on the sale of every dose of vaccine. In creating this no-fault system in the 1980s, Congress sought to provide care for those injured by vaccines while protecting manufacturers from undue litigation.

The law profs say such a law could discourage aggressive marketing of extremely lethal weapons and encourage safer guns.

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