On Gun Manufacturers and Criminal Prosecution
The story of the 2 year-old girl in Kentucky, who was shot and killed by her 5 year-old brother with a rifle he was given as a present, has been preying on my mind much of the week. I think about the little girl, I imagine that just a few days ago she was a giggling, happy child who liked flowers and dresses and dolls and ice cream and now she’s dead, and I get teary and I get angry and I get teary again and I cannot imagine how we can live in a world that thinks a five year-old boy, who probably still needs his mom to tie his shoes before he goes to kindergarten, is old enough and mature enough and responsible enough to have a gun.
Gun manufacturers are immune from negligence and wrongful death lawsuits. In 2005, the NRA, sensing that the gun industry would be the next Big Tobacco, prodded Congress to pass a law giving gun manufacturers immunity from lawsuits arising from the use and misuse of their products.
The two year-old girl’s parents could be prosecuted, I suppose, for child endangerment. I don’t know what value would come from that, to be honest. They had a two year-old daughter in their lives. She laughed at things. She doesn’t laugh any more.
Mitt Romney said “Corporations are people, my friend.” The Supreme Court said over a century ago that corporations are also people.
If corporations are people, then perhaps it’s time we start to criminally prosecute the gun manufacturers for reckless endangerment, depraved indifference, accessory to murder, and so forth, when their products are used to make little girls not laugh any more. A gun manufacturer recklessly endangered a little girl’s life. A gun manufacturer was indifferent to how their product would end a little girl’s life. A gun manufacturer was an accessory to ending that little girl’s life.
I don’t know that it would make a difference. If these felony laws didn’t codify that they referred to living, breathing human beings and not conceptual people as corporations are, they would be quickly changed if there were any chance, any chance at all, that a prosecution of a gun manufacturer for reckless endangerment would come close to succeeding.
A two year-old girl laughed at things. She doesn’t laugh any more.
For her sake, I hope someone tries.