The easy answer is no — and let’s face it, that’s the common sense answer, too. Why should manufacturers be held accountable for crimes other people commit with weapons that are sold (supposedly) primarily for self-defense? But there are exceptions to the rule. In fact, there are more exceptions than ever before, and people are actually beginning to take aim at gun manufacturers, even in cases where there are no obvious defects for which to blame them.
It’s not so difficult to understand why the tide is turning against gun manufacturers. Our legislators have turned a blind eye to thousands of victims of gun violence — and tens of thousands of those victims’ family members — with thoughts and prayers but no real action on squeezing those who would do us harm with a few simple new laws (such as universal background checks, mandatory gun training classes, or, egads, even registration!).
But that’s the world in which we live. We’re willing to throw away our own lives and the lives of our loved ones to savor the “liberty” of an old constitutional amendment that may or may not have been designed as a personal right over a communal one. While that argument continues to rage on even today, we ask our legislators to take action and they don’t.
But it’s that lack of action against the individual that makes manufacturers — big companies that make quite a lot of money from gun sales — so easy to target. They’re the ones who keep records. We have a lot more information on manufacturers than we do on the people who buy their products. And even though these companies make fewer mistakes and abide by the law much more than the average citizen, we still ask ourselves whether or not it’s okay to sue them for the transgressions of others.
Although the legality of suing gun manufacturers is a murky area right now (and most lawyers won’t go near the industry with a ten-foot pole), it might get cleared up soon if certain Democratic 2020 candidates have their way. A lot of them want to open up manufacturers to civil legal action as a matter of course because, again, it’s the easy way out, and it could actually make a difference. It’s a classic case of the ends justifying the means, depending on your opinion.
Most recently, Connecticut’s court system ruled to allow the lawsuit of a gun manufacturers whose weapons were used in the Sandy Hook atrocity. Many conservative states and gun lobbyists were quick to attack the ruling and attempt to have it overturned.
The argument? That Remington, the gun manufacturer in question, had targeted the sale of their line of guns toward young males who are statistically more likely to commit a mass shooting or base act of violence. It’s a good argument, and whether or not more are made is a question that will be answered in the next few years.
Can you sue a manufacturer if someone uses one of their guns to shoot you? The hard answer is: you can certainly try.