Making money can be a crime if people die

By Mike Steiner

Litigation may be our saving grace when legislation leaves us staring at the wrong end of a gun. Colt, famous maker of the all-American western six-shooter, is the first to fold under the pressure of 28 separate fierarms-related lawsuits. Lawyers demand compensation for cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, which suffer from enormous gun-related violence.

With the us lawmakers in the pocket of the powerful National Rifle Association, any proposed legislation that could hamper gun manufacturers is shot down time and time again. But Americans finally hardened their stance after recent high profile incidents, and found an alternate way of dealing with the proliferation of guns in their country: the courts, and it’s working.

Colt will discontinue the production of seven types of handguns, and cease selling nearly all handguns to civilians. Instead, they will concentrate on markets such as the army, police and collectors. This was seen as a major victory for gun-control advocates who believe manufacturers should be held responsible for the products they sell–a trend already wreaking havoc on the tobacco industry.

However, some question whether manufacturers like Colt are guilty of anything except good business. A Colt executive said recently, "It’s extremely painful when you have to withdraw from a business for irrational reasons." After all, guns don’t kill people, people kill people–right?

Wrong. Although we can never do away with mental illness and random attacks of violence, we can limit their power to inflict harm on the rest of us. Columbine students would agree that the carnage which occurred in their school would have been less catastrophic if the assailants had only been armed with a couple of butcher knives.

Gun makers can no longer use the Second Amendment as a bulletproof shield, where the often-cited and always taken-out-of-context "right to bear arms" spiel is located. Lawmakers in the late 1700s did not foresee the consequences when they added that deadly line to the constitution. Guns back then were expensive and held by few people, taking a year’s salary on average to purchase. Today there are more guns in the us than people; they can be purchased for only three day’s pay and, as a result, manufacturer’s are getting their pants sued.

But in a country where lawsuits are as common as owning a gun built for the exclusive purpose of killing humans, who would expect anything different? Here in Canada, of course, things are different We don’t have guns, insane people or crime. No guns produced in the us have ever made it into Canada illegally, and the NRA doesn’t have a stake in keeping the wool pulled over our eyes, right?

Wrong again. Canada has a huge gun-trafficking problem in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. According to the RCMP, handguns manufactured in the us have a nasty habit of turning up in the hands of Canadian organized-crime syndicates, creating an alarming infusion of illegal firearms into our black market. This fact, combined with Statistics Canada’s statement that 89,741 firearms were lost or stolen in 1997 alone, indicates our home and native land is a little more hostile than we would like to think.

Since weapons made in the old USofA do affect us beer-drinking pacifists across the border, we should applaud any maneuver limiting the number of handguns in general circulation. By making gun producers think twice about the type of weapons they produce and to whom they are sold, lawsuits have served to increase the well-being of the public. Who ever said lawyers don’t serve the common man?

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