They don’t make those dart guns any more. Presumably, the concern was that some kid would shoot his or her eye out, resulting in a good old American-style lawsuit. That’s why any projectile-shooting toy available today only shoots the wimpy Nerf-style darts, which have a range of about three feet and all the hitting power of a butterfly.
This is an odd country. Toy manufacturers can be sued for injuries that might be incurred by a rubber-tipped dart. But the manufacturers of toys that fire high velocity bullets ‐ companies like Remington, Colt and a couple dozen others — don’t have to worry about that. They’re protected by a 2005 law known as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Basically, the law guarantees that if somebody commits inflicts harm with a gun — say, by killing several dozen people in a matter of minutes — the maker of the gun in question can’t be sued. Period.
Not many industries have that kind of immunity. In fact, I can’t think of any. So it’s interesting to follow this lawsuit by the families of all those kids who were murdered with an AR-15 in Newtown, Conn. The judge in the case has actually set a trial date — which is much further than anyone expected it to go. There’s a hearing set for Monday.
Whatever happens with this lawsuit, maybe it represents the best hope for curbing gun madness, someday. At some point, I think, gun makers and gun owners must be made to share in the risk posed by the most lethal of the products they make and buy.
The threat of ruinous liability claims has altered the dart-gun industry; it’s long past time the real-gun industry felt some pain too. Imagine if every AR-15 or AK-47 knockoff had to come with a multimillion-dollar insurance policy. Imagine if every box of ammo did too. Suddenly, the lethal toy that used to run three figures now runs five. A killing machine becomes much less of an impulse buy.
It’s not a solution, but it’s a start. I sincerely hope the Newtown families prevail.