A fundamental tenet of American tort law is that when someone injures you—whether through negligence or on purpose—they should pay to put you right. It is up to the injured person to decide who to sue, and it's up to the judge and jury to decide whether the defendant pays. If you get hit by a truck, you may be angry enough to sue everybody: the driver, the driver's employer, the truck manufacturer, the truck's mechanic, and the guy who first came up with the idea of trucks. Americans have believed for more than 200 years (and the British since long before that) that the best way to get to the bottom of who's really at fault is a jury. Not the richest among us; not the most powerful; but twelve honest people working to find the truth.
Last week, nine of North Carolina's thirteen Representatives—including every one of our Republicans—said that America's jury system doesn't apply to the gun industry. With their "yes" votes on S. 397 they said that gun manufacturers are immune from a variety of tort liability, that these companies don't have to play by the rules.
Voting yes: G.K. Butterfield, D-1; Walter Jones, R-3; Virginia Foxx, R-5; Howard Coble, R-6; Mike McIntyre, D-7; Robin Hayes, R-8; Sue Myrick, R-9; Patrick McHenry, R-10; Charles Taylor, R-11.
Voting no: Bob Etheridge, D-2; David Price, D-4; Melvin Watt, D-12; Brad Miller, D-13.
This bill is going to the President, and he will probably sign it.
Here's what this means: The next time you get shot (God forbid), you may believe that the guy who was holding the gun is to blame—the courts will consider your claim, get to the bottom of the facts, and apply the law. You may believe that the woman who helped him get the gun is to blame—the courts will consider your claim, get to the bottom of the facts, and apply the law. You'll even get into court (if not before a jury) with the theory that Mars, the God of War, is to blame. But don't even consider the possibility that the gun manufacturer is to blame, because Congress has given this one special group a get-out-of-jail free card.
Why would Congress bless gun manufacturers with immunity? Let's look at those "yes" votes again beside the amount of money each Representative received from the NRA alone (not including the rest of the gun lobby) in 2001 and 2002.
G.K. Butterfield: N/A
Walter Jones, R-3: $5,950
Virginia Foxx, R-5: N/A
Howard Coble, R-6: $3,000
Mike McIntyre, D-7: $1,000
Robin Hayes, R-8: $7,000 (Hayes received a total of $17,900 from the gun lobby in 2002 alone.)
Sue Myrick, R-9: $3,000
Patrick McHenry, R-10: N/A
Charles Taylor, R-11: $2,500 [Source]
America ought to stand for the principle of equal treatment under the law, not "he who pays, wins." Send the representatives who don't understand that home in 2006.