…………….. Your Central New York Injury Lawyer is still blogging on the topic of gun control. New York recently passed an assault rifle ban. Other states will follow. An argument against such laws I have been hearing recently is, “more people are killed in car accidents than by shootings, so why don’t we ban cars?”. In other words, what fools you are for banning assault rifles!
But the analogy fails, and this blog post will explain why.
What’s the difference between banning automobiles and banning assault rifles? They both kill, they’re both dangerous, and cars may even be more dangerous! So why ban assault rifles and not cars? Think about it! I bet you can guess. Don’t give up!
Okay, so you gave up. Here’s the answer in a single word: Utility.
I can explain this best by reference to New York products liability law (it’s really the same in all states). The law uses something called a “risk-utility test” to determine whether a product is unreasonably dangerous. Let’s start with the premise that virtually every human invention –starting with the wheel — carries with it some risk of harm. The “risk-utility test” weighs the harms against the benefits (also called “utility”) of the product. The harms from the product are placed on one side of the imaginary scale, and the benefits or utility of the product is placed on the other side. If the scale tips to the “harms” side, then the product gets a thumbs down, i.e., it is deemed “unreasonably dangerous” and thus “defective”, and the manufacturer is liable for the harms. By contrast, if the scale tips to the “utility” side, then the product gets a thumbs up and the manufacturer gets a free pass.
The test can be best understood by way of examples. So imagine a booby-trap invention designed for home windows. If an intruder tries to jimmy the window open — boom! — he’s toast! On the “utility” side of the scale, the device thwarts burglaries. On the “harms” side of the scale, the device will almost certainly kill or seriously injure not only evil intruders, but also mischievous children, pranksters, or even homeowners who forget their key. The risk of harm outweighs the benefits, especially since there are other, less dangerous ways to prevent burglaries. Thumbs down!
You can do the test with any invention. Take an ageless invention, the kitchen knife. Harms: Can cut and injure people, and can be used as a weapon in domestic disputes. Utility: It is indispensable both in the kitchen and at the table for preparing and eating food. Nothing can really replace it. Thumbs up.
Now let’s put automobiles and assault rifles to the test.
Harms: They kill and maim a lot of people.
Utility: Without cars our economy, our world, would screech to a halt. They are a necessity of modern life. The benefits clearly outweigh even the terrible harm they cause.
Harms: Crazed shooters inevitably get their hands on them and commit rapid-fire mass murder in our schools, movies houses, and college campuses before anyone has time to react or protect themselves.
Utility: Some sportsmen gain pleasure from shooting them at shooting ranges. They’re “fun”. But unlike automobiles, they are not necessary to our society or to our economy. And sportmen can also derive pleasure from shooting more traditional, and safer, guns. Thus, their utility is minimal, and their harm (Sandy Hook, Columbine, Aurora) is great. Thumbs down!
So that’s why, as I said in my last blog, assault rifles should be banned, or at least their manufacturers and vendors (who are making a “killing” on sales) should be held strictly liable to the victims of shooting sprees where such guns are employed.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com Central and Syracuse NY Personal Injury Lawyers Michaels & Smolak, P.C.