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Firearms Industry's Last Chance
Commentary by Richard W. Stevens, Esq.

Read this sentence twice: Your rights are meaningless if you can’t afford to exercise them.

The current wave of lawsuits against gun makers and sellers might well kill the Second Amendment. If the lawsuits succeed, most Americans will not be able to afford to keep and bear arms. Their Constitutional right will be dead.

Using civil lawsuits, the anti-firearms lobby might well prevent average, non-violent, law-abiding Americans from obtaining firearms and ammunition. Lawsuits pending in New Orleans, Chicago, and other cities seek to hold gun manufacturers and sellers liable for the criminal or negligent misuse of firearms by others.

It’s real simple. Person A unlawfully shoots Person B. Person B goes to the hospital. The City pays the bill, because Person B is poor. The City groups all of the cases like this together and sues the manufacturers and distributors of the firearms to get the money for the hospital bills. Multiply the lawsuits by the number of cities who use this tactic.

To defend these suits, according to a Washington Post report, the firearms industry might hire the same law firms and lawyers who represented the tobacco companies. Several states had sued the tobacco companies for the costs of caring for low- income smokers. The tobacco companies lost.

President Clinton has just announced he would order the Justice Department to sue the tobacco companies again. The multi-hundred billion dollar settlement of the state lawsuits did not protect the tobacco companies from a future federal lawsuit.

If they use the same tobacco company defense lawyers and the same old strategies, then the firearms industry can expect to lose. Defense lawyers, as a breed, usually focus on the plaintiff’s legal allegations and try to defeat them. That short-term approach lets the plaintiff define the terms of the lawsuit. Unless the defense lawyers win these cases decisively and early (by rarely-successful motions to dismiss), the litigation must continue all the way to settlement or trial. Then comes the flood of lawsuits. Win or lose, the costs of defending the suits mount. Jury verdicts and lawsuit costs tax the industry and drive insurance premiums sky high. Guns and ammunition will become either much more expensive or unavailable.

Huge corporations, like Dow Corning, have folded in recent years because of litigation. Firearms companies are next.

The firearms industry needs to take control of these lawsuits by taking control of the whole "gun control" debate. They need to mount a public relations campaign that reaches average Americans. The campaign must cause people to view these lawsuits as crazy and dangerously un-American -- and it must destroy the credibility of gun prohibitionists.

Here’s step one of the plan. Run advertising that makes these simple gut-level points:

Firearms protect many times more lives than are lost to criminal violence. (Dramatize the statistics from Professors Kleck and Lott, and use actual first-person stories.)

"Gun control" is a racist policy. (Use the actual stories and laws described in JPFO’s "Gun Control" Is Racist booklet.)

It is silly to sue the maker of a product for injuries caused by criminals and others who deliberately or carelessly misuse it. (Remember when the burglar sued the homeowner for injuries?)

Every American must receive these messages. Daily. On the radio, in the magazines and newspapers, in direct mail flyers, on the backs of coupons, on billboards, on television. The firearms industry and lovers of liberty must unite, and they must permanently plant these messages into the mainstream of American understanding. Most Americans are uncomfortable with dangerously silly and/or racist ideas. Because of this, all Americans, and most especially juries, should instinctively distrust these lawsuits.

JPFO has the information and materials available to launch the campaign right now. The firearms industry can win -- but only if they change the terms of the debate.

About the author, Richard Stevens

This article comes to you courtesy of JPFO, Inc., America's aggressive, no-compromise, civil rights organization. JPFO offers books, booklets, children's materials, timely articles, billboard messages and Internet e-mail alerts. Bold strategies using these materials can motivate all Americans to celebrate and preserve all of the Bill of Rights for all citizens -- including the fundamental right to keep and bear arms. Contact JPFO at P.O. Box 270143, Hartford, WI 53027 or by calling (262) 673-9745. Website:

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