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July 25, 2012 08:08 PM UTC

Tort Reform: How You Like Me Now?

  • 8 Comments
  • by: Colorado Pols

A discussable post on the Center for Justice & Democracy’s Pop Tort blog today:

I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of the late great Warren Zevon when news broke of the unfortunately-timed civil lawsuit just filed by one of the victims of the Aurora shooting. The primary case “center[s] on the safety and security procedures at the theater” but some experts say, according to Bloomberg, that such claims may not be successful “because such cases require some proof that a company or organization acted unreasonably, and knew, or should have known, about the danger posed.”  Of course, Aurora CO wasn’t completely unaware that insane individuals were capable of mass murder.  In the 1990s, a guy walked into an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese and killed four people.  And of course, there was Columbine, only 17 miles way.  But this was a movie-theater first, and a judge may very well throw it out.

But we’re a lot more concerned about the various “get out of jail free” cards for which the National Rifle Association has lobbied so hard around the country, all for the purpose of ensuring that the gun industry – as well as “shooters gone rogue” – are never held responsible for any of the consequences of this nation’s gun violence.   For example, in 2005, President George W. Bush signed into law the NRA’s Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which shields the gun industry from liability when the acts of a gun dealer or manufacturer contribute to gun violence…

Given that the gun industry is virtually unregulated in the country, the threat of legal liability is probably the best way to change the way gun manufacturers and distributors make their products available to the public.

In a more detailed report on the Center for Justice and Democracy’s website, it’s explained that the federal law shielding gun manufacturers from liability for the illegal sale and/or use of guns came as a result of intense lobbying by the gun industry. Prior to this bill, cities were beginning to file lawsuits against gun manufacturers for the resultant public safety expense due to sloppy or criminally complicit dealers, defects, etc. George W. Bush put a stop to that.

While it doesn’t appear that the weapons used in the Aurora theater shootings were purchased illegally, there’s no question that illegal sales of guns do contribute to crime in Colorado–you might remember the case of GOP activist Gregory Golyansky’s pawn shops, and the investigation of dozens of “straw purchases” of guns there. Beyond that, there are larger questions, like those in litigation against tobacco companies, about the distribution of an inherently unsafe product. We’ve seen dismissive counterarguments, but somebody obviously thought it was enough of a risk to pass federal legislation shielding the industry from liability.

Folks, we understand that the gun lobby is very powerful, and in Colorado it has a substantial degree of bipartisan power. But after the Columbine shootings in 1999, Colorado voters passed an initiative requiring background checks at gun shows. According to polls of Colorado gun owners, lopsided majorities support sensible gun control policy–in many cases, the members are considerably more reasonable than their hard-line organizations.

Sometimes, events this close to home teach us lessons we refuse to learn otherwise.

Comments

8 thoughts on “Tort Reform: How You Like Me Now?

  1. This diary set me off, and I support repealing the PLCAA.  The diary is, to me, exactly what we didn’t want out of this tragedy – crass politicization the shooting just for the sake of promoting a vaguely related goal.

    1. Unless you’re of the opinion that it’s wrong for cities to sue gun makers for the cost of gun crime, this is not a “vaguely related goal” at all. If you do think it’s wrong for cities to do that, congrats my friend, your NRA membership card is on the way!

      IMHO, I am sick of well intentioned people telling me to say nothing while wingers say whatever the hell they want and win policy debates over and over. Good for your high horse rules, but the other side isn’t playing by them.

      Sorry, some of my anger isn’t even for you, but your comment set me off.

      1. I do think that this is a tangential goal to the theater shooting.  Allowing cities to sue manufacturers for gun crimes would not have allowed them to sue for this crime – the asshole in question, who I refuse to ever name, purchased these guns legally and there was no reason that the gun manufacturer had any reason to believe that he would misuse the weapons for criminal purposes.

        You’ll note I said: I support repealing the Bush law that disallowed these lawsuits.

        But using the theater shooting, and tying it in to tort reform in general (and if the Guvs had meant just this law they wold have said it…) was over the top.

        You want to talk about repealing the law, let’s do it.  Let’s talk about the shops that still sell weapons and know they’re going to wind up in the wrong hands; let’s talk about the manufacturers who oppose responsible gun ownership; let’s talk about the gun rights organizations who do the same.

        And let’s leave recent tragedy that has nothing to do with this specific law, or other tort reforms, out of the conversation.

        1. We used the word “tort” in the title because the legislation in question is tort reform. We didn’t mention any other variety of tort reform besides this law, and it was neither inaccurate nor inappropriate. Also, cities filed suit against gun manufacturers for a variety of reasons prior to this law going into effect–we wouldn’t be so quick to assume that, prior to its passage, Aurora would have no grounds to do so. It’s a fact that they don’t today with the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in force.

            1. http://www.coloradopols.com/di

              We stand by our comments about ABC calling the shooter a Tea Party member without proof, and Republicans invoking “God’s judgment” to explain the shooting.

              Sorry to upset you, but we don’t place this directly relevant policy question in the same category.

  2. No, Zevon and his song wouldn’t have popped into my mind if I hadn’t read about the lawsuit here for the first time.

    An unfortunate remark, in my opinion.

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