New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie made headlines this week for his proposal to allow the firearms industry to be sued when criminals use their guns in the commission of violent crimes. While the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act prohibits most junk lawsuits against the firearms industry, Myrie’s bill would tweak state law in order to allow for lawsuits that use a particular legal argument.
Myrie’s bill would categorize the misuse of guns as a nuisance.
Industry members could be sued for actions that “recklessly create, maintain or contribute to a condition in New York state that endangers the safety or health of the public through the sale, manufacturing, importing, or marketing of” a gun.
“There is no question in my mind that this is a public health crisis and a public nuisance that should be dealt with accordingly,” he said. “They have a business model that is predicated on their products flowing into the illegal market, and although they are loosely regulated in other states, the blood that is spilled ends up being the kids in Brownsville and Rochester and Albany, and I don’t think New Yorkers should accept that.”
“We can really set a standard that the rest of the nation could follow, that if you are going to make money off a deadly product, then you should build in the safety precautions that are necessary to protect the product from killing people on our streets,” Myrie said.
Myrie also made his pitch on New York public radio station WNYC, but the senator got a shock from a caller named Justin, who wondered why Myrie and other politicians are interested in bankrupting gun companies instead of making it easier for responsible citizens to protect themselves (the call starts at 13:28 in the link above).
“We keep talking about taking guns from the bad guys, which is impossible. Even if it is possible it’s gonna take a long time to do that. People are coming in with illegal guns in this state. The problem is these people aren’t talking about how people like me can protect myself.”
Host Brian Lehrer sounded a bit surprised as well, and asked if the caller was asking why Myrie isn’t making it easier for people like him to own a gun. “Yes,” replied Justin, who said the real question is “How do citizens like me protect myself from criminals who have guns?”
Myrie’s response was to avoid answering the caller’s question entirely, even though he said it was “really important” to discuss.
“Why are we using the same solutions for the problems that persist without a different result? The truth is the way that we have been doing things has not worked. The approach that we’ve used against gun violence, against getting guns off the street, against keeping our public safe, has failed us. Using a police alone approach hasn’t worked.”
Myrie went on to correctly note that most gun violence is committed by a small group of people. He was right when he said we can’t arrest our way out of the problem, and instead we have to deal with that small group of people.
But Myrie never did explain to Justin why he doesn’t believe the caller should be able to acquire a firearm to protect himself without first handing over hundreds of dollars in fees, submitting to multiple interviews, providing character references and even tax documents in order for police to decide if he’s “suitable” to own a gun.
Nor did Myrie tell Justin what would happen if his bill giving the green light to junk lawsuits against gun makers becomes law. If that happens, it won’t just be law-abiding New Yorkers like Justin who have a hard time legally getting a gun. It will be all of us, because Myrie’s trying to bankrupt the industry. Criminals will still get their guns on the black market, through theft, and even making their own, and it will be good people like Justin who bear the real cost of Myrie’s bad idea.