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We Can Take On The Gun Lobby

But first, we have to restore tort liability for the gun industry.
We Can Take On The Gun Lobby
Image from: Patrick Chappatte/New York Times

To stop gun violence, this needs to be a priority in a Democratic Congress: Repeal the tort liability exemption that protects the gun lobby from the same fate as Big Tobacco.

The politicians who voted for that awful bill are careful to present it as "common sense" and "fair." They also like to use the hammer analogy: "If someone murders someone with a hammer, is it fair to sue the company that made the hammers?" This is several layers of bullshit, and the first is that this is an NRA talking point. It's been on their handouts for years, so naturally they share it with the politicians to whom they donated.

Second: Since when is it the job of Congress to carve out special protections for one industry in our legal system? We didn't like it when states passed damage caps on malpractice cases under the guise of keeping insurance premiums low. (It didn't work.) Why on earth is it "fair" to exempt an entire industry from being sued, except under very narrow conditions? The courts are the only real tool We The People have left, and even that right has been steadily eroded.

Go read the rest of this Think Progress piece about how lawsuits broke the tobacco industry if you want to understand what we can do to cripple the gun lobby if this law is repealed:

Polls consistently show popular support among Americans for universal background checks for gun buyers and bans on assault-style weapons, but any attempt to pass even commonsense reforms appears dead on arrival.

Such a task is not unprecedented, however, considering the nation has made great strides to reduce another major cause of preventable deaths: Tobacco. In the Mad Men-era of the early 1960s, smoking was ubiquitous — almost half of all adults smoked. Robin Koval, CEO and president of the nonprofit Truth Initiative, remembers a time, not long ago, when people could smoke just about everywhere. “Back in the day, you could smoke on airplanes, in your office, in most public buildings,” she recalled, before the “science behind second-hand smoke became an impetus for major action on clean air laws.”


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Even as recently as the 1990s, the tobacco industry wielded enormous influence in state legislatures and in the U.S. Congress, giving it a virtual veto on public policy. A 1989 op-ed by then-Rep. Dick Durbin (D-IL) noted that the tobacco lobby was so powerful and ingrained in Congress that the “decorative wooden leaves carved into the speaker’s rostrum in the U.S. House of Representatives aren’t sprigs of laurel; they’re tobacco.”

Back in the day, you could smoke on airplanes, in your office, in most public buildings.But that is no longer the case today, thanks to the actions of Durbin and many others. Between 1965 and 2011, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the percentage of Americanadults who smoke cigarettes dropped from 42 percent down to 19. And in 2009, Congress enacted its first-ever Tobacco Control Act withbipartisan support.

The same is not true for firearm ownership. Over the same period, Gallup polling shows American gun ownership rates have remained largely unchanged and even a modest gun bill in 2013 fell well short of passage. The threat posed by unfettered access to firearms has never been clearer, so why has the gun lobby and industry in America flourished as the tobacco industry became a pariah?

A big part of the answer is that the gun lobby preempted the sort of tactics that anti-smoking activists successfully used to reduce cigarette consumption. After seeing class action lawsuits that forced the tobacco industry to change the way it marketed its product, research by the Surgeon General and the U.S. government helping both discourage use and assist cessation, the creation of smoke-free public places, increased taxes on tobacco deterring use, and many medical professionals helping their patients quit, the gun lobby spent tens of millions to make sure they avoided the same fate. And by changing federal and state laws, it found ways to block every single one of those approaches from being used to undermine the firearm and ammunition industries’ bottom lines.

Here is a look at five key ways advocates were able to hold Big Tobacco accountable for the damage its product was causing — all routes the gun industry has preemptively blocked.

Read on.

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