Suing Big Guns and Big Oil is just cynical political posturing


Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown announced last week that the Queen City had filed a “first of its kind” lawsuit targeting and blaming firearms manufacturers for the rising gun violence there. It’s not remotely the first, despite invoking a new “public nuisance” state law, and it’ll fail: Suits against Big Guns over crime, like those targeting Big Oil over climate, are just lawyer-enriching, and posturing-pol-promoting, bunk.

“The City of Buffalo is not going to let these gun industry members continue to flood our city with illegally possessed guns. We must hold them accountable,” Brown declared of the case against such gunmakers as Beretta, Smith & Wesson, etc., as well as distributors and local gun shops — plus, ghost-gun retailers like Polymer 80.

Maybe there’s a case against the ghost-gun crew, but all the other targets have weathered similar litigation before, starting in the ’90s. As long as the defendants obey the laws on serial numbers, background checks and so on, they’re not liable for third parties’ illegal use of their products.

Brown declared of the case against gunmakers such as Beretta and  Smith & Wesson.
The lawsuit blames gun manufacturers for the high number of illegal guns in Buffalo.
Corbis via Getty Images

Blame racist gunman Payton Gendron, not the gun industry, for the Tops Supermarket massacre. Local thugs and gangbangers are responsible for the terrible street violence in Buffalo and urban areas across New York.

Brown, like many pols before him, is trying to dodge his real duty. Lawyers are eyeing fees, or in some cases just hoping friendly judges will ignore the law to help them shut down the “evil” industry.

It’s much the same with litigation pretending that Big Oil has deceived the public about carbon fuels and climate change. Suit after suit has failed because the evidence just isn’t there — which hasn’t stopped New Jersey from filing a new suit because its politicians want to posture.

Reality check: Oil’s used precisely as intended to run our cars, heat our homes and keep the lights on. Lacking practical alternatives, society has chosen the emissions despite environmental costs. (By the way, global coal-burning rose this year, for the same reason.)

And while some petro-companies have questioned some claims of the anti-carbon lobby, they haven’t lied about what’s known, or even about what their private research has found.

Again, the hope here is that ideology will triumph in the courts where it hasn’t when it comes to writing laws. Lawyers get some work, politicians get to wax indignant — and they can all hope for a windfall if enough judges play along.

It’s not a bold struggle for justice; it’s a racket.


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