Stevenson and Shorter, ‘Revisiting Gun Control and Tort Liability’

Gun violence has long been an intractable policy problem in the United States, pitting gun rights advocates against public health experts against a backdrop of modern Second Amendment jurisprudence. The Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in Heller had the long-term effect of freezing federal firearm statutes in place, even as the number of guns in circulation continues to spiral upward, and mass shootings, gun accidents, and suicides have a detrimental impact on our communities. This Article reexamines longstanding proposals for minimally intrusive regulatory approaches, such as universal background checks and restrictions on certain military-style rifles, which have the pedigree of popular support in an otherwise divisive area. More importantly, this Article revisits the issue of tort liability for gun manufacturers and dealers, and the new wave of court decisions allowing such cases to move forward in spite of a federal statute designed to grant the firearms industry immunity from such lawsuits. An area of tort litigation that was mostly dormant for fifteen years has now become increasingly active, with far-reaching implications for gun policy, gun industry insurance policies. As courts find workaround for the immunity statute or apply the statutory exceptions more broadly, gun manufacturers and retail distributors alike may need to rethink their product lines, marketing, and relationship to the secondary market.

Stevenson, Drury D and Shorter, Jenna, Revisiting Gun Control and Tort Liability (March 27, 2021). Indiana Law Review, forthcoming.

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