Siobhán Lynch does not believe the lawsuit by parents in Newtown against Bushmaster, the maker of the AR-15, is the way forward on the guns issue.
Yesterday, it was announced that the parents and family of the victims of the Sandy Hook Massacre are suing Bushmaster, for making a gun available that was originally for military use, to civilians. The civil suit is for wrongful death and negligence, and the plaintiffs have a decidedly uphill battle for a number of reasons.
Unfortunately, the blame doesn’t lie with Bushmaster, but the federal and state governments who did not have an effective ban or policy to combat gun violence in place.
Almost every gun ban in the US has had very little effect on gun crime. Much of the problem lies in that they do have not banned specific capabilities, but rather focused on cosmetic features of a gun. Indeed, something that both the NRA and the Violence Policy Center actually agree on is that most gun bans have banned cosmetic differences and not functional differences between assault weapons and civilian grade firearms.
With the AR-15, which is a modular weapon, it’s lower receiver is essentially a pistol (though firing it as a pistol would be not recommended). The upper receiver is what makes it a rifle, and can take several different caliber rounds. Anyone can order the upper receiver as a part, and only the lower receiver is generally regulated as a firearm. Most assault weapons bans ban things like foldable buttstocks, flash suppressors, and bayonet lugs. Unfortunately, these things are pretty much just cosmetic, and point to legislators ignorance of how guns work, and what actually makes one more dangerous than another (ammunition type, firing mechanism, etc). Lawmakers need to educate themselves before putting non-effective bans in place.
Only six states have any type of restrictive gun ban in place, and these, for the most part, are not effective. New Jersey and Massachusetts still have an analogue of the original cosmetic features ban from 1994. New York, Maryland and Connecticut passed laws after Sandy Hook on specific types of firearms (“so if we change the design slightly and call it something else…“). California has specific laws limiting AR15 ownership to fixed magazines that do not hold over 10 rounds.
Again…Connecticut passed the law after Sandy Hook. Can you really hold a manufacturer liable for something that was not illegal to sell?
Holding Bushmaster responsible for the actions of a very disturbed man would have a chilling effect on any industry, not just the gun industry. It would set a precedent requiring manufacturers to control every step of a supply chain, essentially meaning that if something was sold to someone, or was stolen and used to hurt someone else (Pharmaceuticals comes into mind), then a manufacturer could be held as responsible? It seems to me, that would have an extremely chilling effect on most markets.
Unfortunately, when we talk about gun control, it seems it is always all or nothing.
Neither side has the wherewithal to truly start tacking issues that lead to these types of danger scenarios. The Gun Control Lobby (and the Gun Freedom Activists) could learn a thing or two from groups like LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) and SSDP (Students for Sensible Drug Policy) in espousing and talking about “What is sensible”, which includes both science-based and socially based policies.
With such hot button issues, there will always be a for and against, but with a “Sensible Gun Control Policy” – we might be able to preserve the 2nd Amendment AND protect our citizenry.
I suspect the answer is somewhere in the middle of both sides, as usually effective answers are. It just takes some education and opening the mind to the fact that not everything is “black and white,” and much of the time, there are wider ranging causes and effects that lead to societal issues.
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Photo Credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa