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· Beartooth Regular
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(This is an old article, but illustrates what the trial lawyers are up to with regard to guns.)

REASON * October 1999

Big Guns
Plaintiffs' lawyers declare themselves the "fourth branch of government" and go after firearms

By Walter Olson

You don't need to be a big Second Amendment booster to be appalled by the newest round of litigation against gun makers. All you have to do is take a look at some of the coverage that has appeared recently in press outlets that are basically sympathetic to gun control, like Salon, the American Lawyer, the National Law Journal, and The New Yorker.

Perhaps you've heard that big-city mayors had to sue because they've been losing sleep over how freely guns are bought and sold in this country. Well, it's funny about that. According to Jake Tapper in the July 13 Salon, many of the cities suing gun makers are themselves major distributors of guns, police surplus and otherwise, to the used market. Disposing of firearms in "gun swaps," generally with no questions asked, has been a handy way for localities like Boston, Detroit, and Alameda County, California, to defray the cost of new police weapons. Boston, for example, attached no strings to resale when it recently got rid of more than 3,000 .38s, even though it has now endorsed a new legal theory that private vendors should be liable because they displayed "willful blindness" to what happened after guns left their hands.

For hypocrisy, it's hard to top that. Not impossible, though. New Orleans was the first city to jump on the gun lawsuit train: "We have been so focused here in New Orleans on getting guns off the street and protecting our citizens," Mayor Marc Morial declared at the press conference. Yet New Orleans recently scored what may be the biggest deal of its kind ever in the U.S. when it recycled to street use through an Indiana broker some 7,300 guns, most of which it had confiscated from lawbreakers. These included TEC-9s and various other semiautomatics whose importation and manufacture Congress banned in 1994.

The municipal gun suits demand that manufacturers equip their wares with safety locks, but New Orleans officials attached no such condition to the resale of the guns in their own inventory, only two of which had locks among the thousands they shipped. Nor did they require that the guns be resold only to other police departments, a financially unwelcome stipulation since weapons may fetch only half as much on the market when that particular condition is attached.

Another of the novel legal theories holds it unconscionable for manufacturers to cater to the full demand of shops located in gun-friendly states and suburbs if they can reasonably figure that a certain percentage of the merchandise will wind up in the hands of city residents. But the Big Easy--which merely stipulated that the weapons not be immediately resold in Louisiana ("not in my bayou," as Salon's Tapper puts it)--could easily have predicted what would happen soon after some of the guns in the deal were initially shipped to Texas: They began showing up at New Orleans shops.

(Rest of Article)
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