Why Americans Don’t Treat Fatal Gun Negligence as a Crime

New Republic:

The past decade has seen legal measures to prevent gun negligence systematically dismantled. The 2005 Protection of Legal Commerce in Arms Act statutorily inoculated gun manufacturers and dealers from most claims of negligence in gun deaths. This is even more dangerous than it may first sound. Many people unfamiliar with guns assume that they are designed with simple safeguards against unintentional shootings, but this is not always the case. Glock handguns, for example, have no external safety: If a round is chambered and the trigger is squeezed, the gun fires. As Aaron Walsh, a criminal defense attorney in Augusta, Georgia, put it, “With any other product in the world there would be no Glock company because they would be sued out of existence. You don’t have a safety? That can’t be right.”

Because the firearms industry enjoys exceptions from normal liability, more of the burden for preventing negligence falls to gun owners. Until recently, responsible gun ownership has to some extent been enforced through gatekeeping: State laws limit who can own guns and carry them in public. But advocates for expanded gun rights have been shifting away from an older gun lobby talking point—that we should stop passing new gun control laws and simply enforce the laws we already have—and toward a strategy of dismantling existing legal safeguards. The push for “constitutional carry”—gun carrying by anyone, anywhere, with no licensing required under the pretense that this is a right granted by the Constitution—has radically loosened restrictions on who can own guns and where they may carry them. In several states people may now carry guns on college campuses. In Michigan, guns may be carried openly at K-12 schools. In Iowa, a resident may not be denied a permit to carry a gun in public based on the fact that he or she is blind. In Georgia and other states, guns may be carried in churches and bars. In six states, resident adults may carry concealed handguns with no licensing or training required. Pediatricians in Florida are legally prohibited from asking new parents if they have guns in the home.