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Litigating Against Gun Manufacturers

NCJ Number
Trial Volume: 36 Issue: 12 Dated: November 2000 Pages: 42-48
Jonathan E. Lowy
Date Published
November 2000
6 pages
Tort litigation based on the primary principles of negligence, nuisance, or products liability can encourage the gun industry to act responsibly with respect to safety features and controls over distribution, while compensating innocent victims of the gun industry’s irresponsibility.
Gun manufacturers have refused to take simple measures to prevent many deaths and injuries caused by guns partly due to their strength in lobbying legislatures. In addition, the industry generally experiences no financial costs when it engages in practices that cause harm, whereas including safety features increases manufacturers’ costs. However, the negligence principles applied in other cases can apply against gun manufacturers for their negligent distribution and marketing of guns. Several lawsuits against the gun industry have also related to public nuisance. Products liability law also provides a sound basis to recover against gun manufacturers for shootings that the implementation of feasible design changes could prevent. All aspects of the shooting require analysis to determine whether a shooting makes a strong case against the gun manufacturer. Gun makers can be expected to argue to the jury at trial that other culpable parties are more responsible than the manufacturer for the shooting. Plaintiffs’ attorneys need to address these issues early and forthrightly to the jury and explain that under the law many parties can be responsible for an injury and that finding a gun maker liable does not relieve others of responsibility. Reference notes