Joe Biden’s campaign is going after guns, presumably to reduce the availability of firearms to citizens. And the first step he plans to take, according to his own website, is to “hold gun manufacturers accountable.”
In simple terms, his principal idea to “end our gun violence epidemic” is to bankrupt U.S. firearms manufacturers by surrogate-initiated lawfare rather than legislation.
This single policy (and there are many more bad gun control policies in his manifesto) shows, among other things, a complete or willful ignorance of the strategic importance of the firearms industry and also the social and economic impacts of its destruction.
It’s true that we’re the most heavily armed civilian population in history, worldwide; it’s estimated that well over 400 million firearms are owned by law-abiding U.S. citizens. This makes reducing gun violence by limiting access to firearms effectively pointless, especially given that this number is the legally owned number — and no one knows how many illegally owned guns are held by criminals (although estimates from those who study such matters run from 10 to over 100 million).
Criminals by definition don’t follow the law, so any legislation or policy aimed at reducing the vast number of guns will have no discernible result, at least for many generations. If the aim of going after gun manufacturers is to reduce gun violence, it just won’t work.
The very term “gun violence epidemic” is (willfully) misleading; Americans are actually incredibly law-abiding. The U.S. murder rate is, in fact, below the international mean and claims that we “lead the world in gun violence” are false. More than half of all U.S. counties experience zero murders in any given year, and indeed most gun violence takes place in relatively small areas of major cities (most of which already have relatively strong gun control laws and policies).
To further place the “gun violence epidemic” into perspective (using 2018 data from the FBI, NHTSA and CDC), 10,265 people were murdered with a gun, 36,560 died in motor vehicles, 67,300 died of a drug overdose and 1,515 were stabbed to death. Following Joe Biden’s logic, the manufacturers of all these things should also be held accountable for these many deaths.
Despite the common belief that arms manufacturers are immensely profitable, the history of the industry proves otherwise, with mergers, takeovers, downsizing and “right-sizing” a regular and frequent occurrence. Any sizable court award will not be “eaten” by the owners. Rather, it’s likely to result in the bankruptcy of another manufacturer, partial payment only of any compensation (with the lawyers taking their cut first by describing them as “costs”) and an increase in unemployment in areas around affected factories.
What Biden’s policy would do is bankrupt manufacturers and in turn reduce or remove manufacturing capability across the U.S. That would increase unemployment in a $60 billion per year industry, placing at risk 330,000 jobs. It would also decrease innovation in firearms development, resulting in a less capable military, an ever-increasing problem as time goes by.
At the same time, Biden’s policy would have no discernible effect on gun crime rates.
No criminals will willingly surrender their guns, whether currently legal or illegal (and to be clear, most murderers are career criminals).
They will continue to access the international arms trade, smuggling firearms across our borders as they do now, both for profit and to protect their contraband cargoes. Or they will steal guns from legal owners (including police and military weapons) or they will make them themselves.
Sadly, the only real winners in trying to implement a policy that would allow victims of the “gun violence epidemic” to sue manufacturers – allowing activists to wage lawfare on them – are likely to be the lawyers, who will make money regardless of the outcome.
What is lawfare?
It’s the use of laws to limit the capabilities of your enemies. The practice has spread in recent decades to the use of laws to limit or prevent the activities of a political foe — to tie the hands of “the other guy” that he is incapable of acting directly against you.
This can be as easy as dragging into court someone with relatively limited financial assets — again and again — until they are drained of cash. By the time the cases are all thrown out, the “threat” has been eliminated.
As Brooke Goldstein, a human rights lawyer, has commented, this is a perversion of the law.
Why? Because “the question is not ‘who is the target,’ but ‘what is the intention’ behind the legal action: is it to pursue justice, to apply the law in the interests of freedom and democracy, or is the intent to undermine the system of laws being manipulated?”
Suing gun manufacturers won’t provide any real justice to anyone concerned, nor will it reduce gun crime. What it will do is leave people out of work, and leave the nation with a less capable military and a weaker national defense. The successful implementation of Biden’s policy would twist the law, weaken our nation and damage the Constitution.
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