There’s a big fuss being created right now over Senate Bill 397, which would exempt gun manufacturers from lawsuits based on the “criminal or unlawful misuse” of firearms.
I’m getting a bit tired of opponents of this bill saying that it would protect manufacturers and gun dealers against ordinary negligence actions. Here’s today’s Philadelphia Inquirer editorial:

….the focus of Majority Leader Bill Frist (R., Tenn.) and other Senate leaders wasn’t on gun victims yesterday. Instead, they made yet another outrageous attempt to shield gun-makers and dealers from negligence lawsuits.
What’s needed are real steps that keep illegal guns off the streets. Too many manufacturers are lax in policing the networks that market guns to dealers. Too many dealers sell to buyers they should suspect are reselling guns illegally.
The answer isn’t the gun-immunity measure authored by Sen. Larry E. Craig (R., Idaho), and co-sponsored by both Pennsylvania Republicans, Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum. It would effectively scuttle most legal efforts to force industry reform.
Not only would this hardy perennial on the NRA wish-list bar citizens from pursuing any future claims against manufacturers and sellers over the careless distribution of weapons. It would quash existing lawsuits, too. (One such legal claim was filed in Philadelphia last week on behalf of Anthony Oliver.)
Why would gun-makers deserve legal immunity and not the manufacturers, say, of lawn mowers? Answer: the NRA’s political clout. The irony is that the Senate postponed work on a defense bill to consider gun legislation that will assure America’s streets remain unsafe.

Ordinary negligence? Manufacturers of lawnmowers? Nonsense! When was the last time someone sued a lawnmower manufacturer or dealer for the criminal misuse of a lawnmower?
The bill specifically states that it is intended to protect against actions:

….resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a qualified product by the person or a third party, but shall not include–
(ii) an action brought against a seller
for negligent entrustment or negligence per se;

More here.
Like the previous Inquirer article regurgitated by the Kansas City Star and other Knight-Ridder outlets, the Inquirer’s editorial also focuses on the price of the gun, calling it a “cheap Saturday-night special.”
What is a Saturday night special?
The term “Saturday night special” is of racist origin, and while the “N” word has been dropped, it is loaded language not grounded in logic, but in emotion. Why object to the low price of any item for sale, unless that objection is grounded in a dislike of the technology itself? Safety is not the issue; no one is saying the gun failed to work or that it blew up in someone’s face. The sole criteria is price.
In other words, “these guns are so cheap that poor people in the inner cities are able to buy them.
Would anyone say this about low cost computers?
Almost all of the recent torrent of editorials (and “news releases” like this) cite the case of Anthony Oliver, so I think it’s worth a look at the allegations. Here’s the Philadelphia Daily News:

Anthony’s parents, Anthony Oliver Sr. and Sheree Goode, filed suit this week in Common Pleas Court against the gun shop and Phoenix Arms, the Ontario, Calif., manufacturer of the .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol.
The Saturday-night special used to shoot and kill Anthony was sold by Lou’s on Dec., 18, 2003, to a gun trafficker who sold the gun to someone else, said Elizabeth Haile, staff attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Haile, along with Center City attorney Mark J. LeWinter, is representing Anthony’s parents.
It’s unclear how many times the gun was resold before it got into the hands of Anthony’s close friend, Quamere Durham, then 13.
Quamere has told police he bought the pistol for $50 with his allowance near his Wynnefield home, because he was intimidated by a group of kids who had jumped his friend and threatened to return and shoot one of them.
Thinking the gun could not go off, Quamere allegedly picked it up and pulled the trigger, unintentionally shooting Anthony in the abdomen. Quamere and his friends called 911 and tried to stop the blood gushing from Anthony’s midsection with paper towels and toilet paper. Anthony died that night.
Quamere faces third-degree murder charges, and he is under electronically monitored house arrest.
Anthony’s mother believes Quamere didn’t mean to do it. “He didn’t know anything about guns. He’s a child,” she has said.

He didn’t know anything about guns, but he knew enough to go out and spend $50.00 for a gun, because someone had threatened to shoot him? According to his own statements, he also knew enough to tell another friend to hide the gun, and enough to lie to the police:

“I jumped up to see if Anthony was all right… he was moaning, saying, ‘Call the cops,’ ” Scott testified.
He said Durham dropped the gun and called police to the house on the 2200 block of North 51st Street.
“He asked me to hide the gun, so I hid it under the china closet,” Scott said.
Police said Durham initially told them he shot Oliver with a BB gun. Then he said Oliver brought the handgun into the house, police said.
Later, according to investigators, Durham admitted in a statement that he bought the gun on the street about a week before the shooting.
Durham said the $50 purchase price came from his allowance.
“I was scared. I didn’t want my grandmother to know I bought the gun and had it in the house,” Durham told investigators.

There was apparently a string of illegal transfers of the gun before Durham purchased it with his allowance. Yet (we are told) every single one of those transfers should have been anticipated by the manufacturer.
And the dealer.
Let’s look at the dealer Stanton Myerson, now defendant in this lawsuit. Here’s what he told the Philadelphia Daily News:

….Stanton Myerson, owner of Lou’s Jewelry and Pawn, said he follows the law and is a responsible gun seller.
“The bottom line is we’ve been in business since 1921,” he said yesterday afternoon. “We’ve sold guns for more than 83 years, and we abide by the laws at the time.
“The public has to understand we don’t approve or not approve anyone to purchase a gun. The state police approves or denies a person through a background check,” he said.
“It’s the state of Pennsylvania doing the approving, not Lou’s. What more can we do?”
Myerson said there was nothing wrong with selling multiple guns to one person.
“There’s nothing illegal about a person buying multiple guns,” he said.
“The responsibility comes down to the people who buy and own guns and use them,” he added.
Philadelphia is plagued by gun violence because some people “lack respect for human life. If they had more respect, there would be less tragedies in the world,” he said.
The lawsuit filed this week also alleges that Phoenix Arms, one of the largest producers of Saturday-night specials, should have known Lou’s had hundreds of crime gun traces and not supplied guns to this store.

From personal experience, I can attest that Myerson is right. When I bought a gun in April, I had to go through the same bureaucratic check. What happens is all dictated by law. I filled out a couple of lengthy forms, and following that the clerk called some special line, entered the information, and was on hold while the bureaucracy’s computer performed its check. After a few minutes he was given an approval code to write on the form.
Now, I had to pay a fee for all of this, and I had to wait while the guy was on hold. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that I’d bought five guns in the same store previously, and the guy did what the Brady people would apparently have him do, and refused to sell me the gun. He had just run the legally-mandated background check which the state required him to run and which I’d had to pay for, and which I’d passed. I think I’d have an excellent lawsuit against him for refusing to sell me the gun, and I don’t think he’d be in business very long. (Perhaps that’s what the Brady people want?)
These lawsuits are absolute nonsense, and they are frivolous in the extreme. If I buy dozens of guns, it is my business. The dealer has no control over whether I hang them on the wall, coat them with grease and bury them in my yard, shoot someone, or resell them to others on the street illegally. If I do the latter things they’re crimes. I’ve known people who’ve collected hundreds of guns; should they have been refused purchase? What duty would they impose on this dealer beyond the considerable paperwork already imposed? And why stop at requiring him to check the number of guns I might have purchased previously at his store? Shouldn’t he also attempt to discover whether I’ve purchased other guns at other stores? I mean, if you’re illegally reselling guns, why make it obvious? And if there’s to be a legal precedent holding the dealer liable for what I do with the gun, why not require him to ask whether I plan any holdups? Or whether I’m considering suicide? If this sounds laughable, it’s no more laughable than the idea that the dealer should check to see how many guns I am purchasing, or whether the gun is “too cheap.”
Individuals should be held responsible for their own conduct, not that of others. Blaming dealers and the manufacturers for what ultimate purchasers do with the guns makes no sense at all.
Might as well blame a region.
Oh yes.
There’s a notorious “Iron Highway” which brings guns up from the dangerous, evil South.
Interestingly, the above chart does not blame the South for Philadelphia’s “gun violence.”
The South is only responsible for what goes on in New York and Camden.
Something must be done!
UPDATE: Be sure to read my blogfather Jeff Soyer’s continuing updates on S.B. 397. (They keep trying to add amendments like bans on “cop killer” bullets — as if some bullets kill only cops — and other such nonsense, like exceptions “for children.”) Gun owners need to watch this stuff closely.