Philadelphia takes aim at gun manufacturers
Say what you want about Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, the guy knows how to attract attention. His latest foray into the national media spotlight is the result of this crazy idea he has that maybe he can take guns away from Philadelphians – legally.
Rendell is taking his cue from state attorneys general nationwide who have brought successful actions against the tobacco industry. He is proceeding on the theory that in creating guns, gun manufacturers are creating a “public nuisance.” It’s a novel theory; most lawsuits against guns are brought under product liability laws.
Then again, those actions have always failed. Think about it: You can’t really say a gun failed to perform as it was intended to if it kills someone. I mean, that’s what it’s supposed to do.
By some estimates, Philadelphia spends about $30 million a year in medical costs alone because of gun violence. (That violence, down nationwide in recent years, has increased in Philadelphia.) According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the city would seek to recoup not just those costs, but incidental costs like the money spent to wash blood off the sidewalks.
The gun lobby, naturally, opposes the city’s thoughts on the subject. Philadelphia, they say, should be spending its taxpayer dollars on gun education programs. Philadelphia, they say, has no chance of succeeding in this Quixotic quest because of the Second Amendment, which guarantees everyone the inalienable right to keep a gun in his or her home that some child will discover and use to shoot somebody.
But no amendment, not even the revered first, is absolute. This is something you learn in first-year law school. The First Amendment, which protects free speech and free association, among other things, does not allow your friendly neighborhood nude nightclub owner to stick a friendly neighborhood nude nightclub in your friendly neighborhood.
Cities and counties are allowed to make decisions they deem in the best interests of their citizens. Rendell believes gun ownership is not in the best interests of Philadelphians. And he’s trying to expand that theory into a decision that would make gun manufacturers liable for the recklessness of Philadelphians who do own guns.
Rendell isn’t really sure whether the city can afford to pursue this. But the tobacco thing has him intrigued. See, Rendell realizes that Cigarettes Don’t Kill People; The Industry That Makes Cigarettes Kills People.