In general, manufacturers are held to at least some standard of liability for the safety implications of their products in America. Whether it’s the products themselves or how they are marketed, corporations and manufacturers that make products for Americans know that the time may come when an item in their product line may come under scrutiny, or the methods the company used to put that product in the hands of American consumers.
Nicotine vaporizer manufacturer Juul has been sued into borderline non-existence over the way it marketed to young people. Opioid manufacturers have been taken to task over the way they marketed narcotics while an overdose epidemic swept the nation. Medical device manufacturers have been sued for “deceitful” marketing of transvaginal mesh products with faulty designs. And Monsanto (and later, Bayer) have been sued over the way they portrayed a weedkiller as safe while it was allegedly causing thousands of cases of cancer.
Absent throughout all of that, however, has been gun manufacturers and the way they’ve portrayed their products…until now. Largely protected from liability lawsuits thanks to protections granted in a piece of legislation passed in 2005, gun manufacturers are facing increasing scrutiny over their wares and the role they may be playing in an ever-increasing rate of gun violence in a country that has more firearms in it than people.
Remington Arms recently agreed to a $73 million settlement with nine families who lost children and other loved ones in the 2012 massacre of students and faculty members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The settlement will be paid out by four separate insurance companies as Remington Arms, once a backbone of the American arms manufacturing space, lacks the financial solvency to pay the amount itself. Of particular contention in the case was the way Remington Arms had marketed the rifle that was used in carrying out the murder of 20 children and six staff members at the school, in addition to the gunman’s mother.
The protections once coveted by the gun industry were further eroded earlier this month when California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that allows individuals as well as governments to sue gun makers for negligence. While the bill is certain to be contested in federal courts, the walls built between gun makers and the lives they impact appear to be crumbling, no matter how slowly.