Pistol Whipped: Baseless Lawsuits, Foolish Laws

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Although Congress and the majority of statelegislatures have resisted enacting draconian guncontrol laws, the courts are the final bulwark insafeguarding our constitutional right to keepand bear arms. Yet the courts of late have beenthe scene of unprecedented attacks on that rightas gun control advocates have used the judiciaryto make an end-run around the legislativeprocess. Meritless litigation brought by governmentplaintiffs in multiple jurisdictions are justpart of a scheme to force gun makers to adoptpolicies that legislatures have wisely rejected.Moreover, the suits are used by politicians toreward their allies--private attorneys, many ofwhom are major campaign contributors--withlucrative contingency fee contracts.

Meanwhile, many of the same politicians haveexploited a few recent tragedies to promote theiranti-gun agenda. But gun controls haven'tworked and more controls won't help. In fact,many of the recommended regulations will makematters worse by stripping law-abiding citizensof their most effective means of self-defense.Violence in America is due not to the availabilityof guns but to social pathologies--illegitimacy,dysfunctional schools, and drug and alcoholabuse. Historically, more gun laws have gonehand in hand with an explosion of violent crime.Only during the past decade--with vigorous lawenforcement, a booming economy, and an olderpopulation--have we seen dramatic reductionsin violence, coupled with a record number ofguns in circulation.

Before we compromise constitutional rightsexpressly recognized in the Second Amendment,we ought to be sure of three things: first, thatwe've identified the real problem; second, thatwe've pinpointed its cause; and, third, that ourremedy is no more extensive than necessary to fixthe problem. The spreading litigation againstgun makers fails all three tests as do the latestgun control proposals. Guns do not increase violence;they reduce violence. Banning or regulat-ingfirearms will not eliminate the underlyingpathologies. And a less invasive remedy alreadyexists: enforce existing laws.

Robert A. Levy

Robert A. Levy is senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute.