If you're a member of the NRA like I am, or even if you're not, you are probably aware that the NRA considers the current gun control debate to be the most significant political event in the organization's entire history. The reason, according to the NRA, is because the anti-gun Obama administration and its allies in Congress and various liberal states are "trampling" on the Constitutional "rights" of gun owners, and will stop at nothing to take all the guns away.
Are gun owners quite as defenseless as the NRA wants us to believe? Is there really any truth to the notion that the Constitutional "rights" of gun owners could be trampled and taken away? You can always argue that any law on the books can be changed or that a smart lawyer or a smart Attorney General could figure out some way to convince a judge that what a law has always meant is not what it means any more. But given the NRA's daily insistence that gun owners are one of the most threatened sub-species of the human race, let's take Wayne LaPierre at his word and see if it's really true.
To begin, guns are the only consumer product that is explicitly mentioned and protected in the Constitution. Want to buy a car? You have no "right" to own a car and, in fact, the government can pass and enforce any law it wants defining who can drive, where they can drive, how fast they can drive, and what kind of test they need to pass to even be allowed to drive. Want to own a gun? Not only do you have a Constitutional right to own a gun, but it's such an important claim that it was stuck into the original list of rights, not tacked onto the Constitution 100 or 150 years later like those silly rights that gave blacks their freedom or women the right to vote.
Remember during the debate on Obamacare when Republicans tried to get a law passed that would shield physicians from "frivolous" malpractice lawsuits? The attempt to limit individual or class-action torts against doctors went nowhere, but guess which consumer product -- the only consumer product -- enjoys a complete immunity to class-action suits based on health or safety issues? You got it -- one product and one product only: guns.
Not even cigarettes enjoy the same protection from class-action lawsuits that guns enjoy based on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms act signed by President Bush in 2005. Basically, the law protects both gun manufacturers and gun wholesalers from any legal challenge to the manner in which guns are distributed in the United States. And even though Federal Judge Jack Weinstein found fault with the manufacturers whose sales practices, he believed, did contribute to the amount and pattern of gun violence, he was forced to dismiss the case because the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to bring the action in federal court.
But an even greater degree of protection is enjoyed by the gun industry as the result of a little-known piece of legislation passed in 1976 which amended the Consumer Product Safety Act, specifically prohibiting the Consumer Product Safety Commission from regulating the safety or design of firearms. Once again, guns are the only consumer item to enjoy such blanket protection, even though guns kill an average of 31,000 people each year whereas electric hand tools, which are regulated by the CPSA, account for fewer than 40 deaths each year.
I'm not saying there aren't thousands of laws covering firearms. Nor am I saying that many people who want more gun controls don't have an interest in the complete and total elimination of guns. What I am saying, however, is that gun manufacturers and gun owners also enjoy legal protections and legal rights that do not extend to anyone who doesn't own a gun. Just once I'd like the NRA to climb down off their soapbox and admit the truth.