Tuesday, October 18, 2005

NYT on Immunity Bill--A Fisking

I don’t do many fiskings, but every now and again something comes out that begs for one. And, who am I do deny a beggar its due.

Today’s post involves The New York Times; the Grey Lady of Herald Square, the newspaper of record, the bastion of what’s right in journalism is our subject (of course I’m being sarcastic, the Times has repeatedly revealed itself to be little more than a mouthpiece of urban, liberal, metrosexual, white, latte-sipping, elite snobs—but I digress).

On its op-ed page, the Times (NYT) put up an unsigned editorial meaning it’s the editorial board’s view. Its board is outraged that the US House of Representatives is about to pass a bill that would protect gun makers and dealers from frivolous lawsuits. In the interest of fair play, I support the bill. I’d rather live in a world where such a law wasn’t necessary, but lawyers and their anti-gun clients are out to bankrupt a necessary industry and therefore that industry must be protected.

As expected, NYT splashes the blood of innocents while obscuring truth. Here’s their opening sentence:
Three years ago, the nation's capital region lived in fear of a pair of snipers who killed 10 people and wounded three in random attacks with a Bushmaster XM-15 .223-caliber telescopic rifle - a gleaming civilian version of the Army's basic M-16 assault rifle popular with recreational shooters.
Here’s what’s wrong (and I will pick a couple of nits). The Bushmaster is not gleaming. It has a matte-black finish. It’s not a telescopic rifle. They mean it’s a rifle fitted with a telescope. More seriously, it is not an M-16 assault rifle. At no point does the article point out that the Bushmaster is semi-automatic like many classic hunting rifles and not capable of full auto burst-fire like an M-16.

Then NYT states that:
In the aftermath, the rifle was traced to a shoddy gun dealer who claimed he somehow "lost" that war weapon and some 200 other guns to the underground market. Victimized families sued in grief and outrage and won $2.5 million in a settlement that most Americans - except Congress - would pronounce proper.
First, a Bushmaster is not a "war weapon." Second, the settlement included Bushmaster which settled because its insurance company insisted on it. Bushmaster had done no wrong. It sold to a licensed dealer though a licensed wholesaler. It couldn’t know the dealer had inventory-retention problems. Further, I’ve seen reports that many of the 200 guns were located in the dealer’s paperwork, but that the dealer was a shoddy record keeper so it took a while to figure out what was sold and what was stolen. And, no I don’t think it was a proper lawsuit, especially where Bushmaster was concerned.

Now we move to the heart of the matter:
The House of Representatives, in callow disregard of cause and effect in the nation's harrowing gun carnage, is about to take aim at the Bushmaster settlement by voting what is expected to be final approval of a bill to grant assault-proof protection from damage suits to the gun industry, from manufacturers to dealers.

You've got to love the language sprinkled with sonorous emotion-laden words like callow, harrowing, carnage, and assault-proof. Further, who says the House is disregarding “cause and effect” of gun violence. There’s no evidence that guns by themselves cause crime. Granted, people use them in crime, but suing gun makers into oblivion won’t stop gun crime (see my last earlier earlier post about a man in China using homemade guns to shoot school children).

There’s an expected slam on the National Rifle Association of which I am a member:

This extraordinary shield, written to the diktat of the National Rifle Association, is so sweeping that it would have barred the D.C. sniper settlement and other valid negligence claims, according to legal experts stunned that any industry could ever win such blanket immunity.

Yeah, the evil NRA once again proves that it is able to deliver what its members want like protecting gun makers and dealers from silly lawsuits. The editorial also misleads. The bill limits lawsuits, but doesn’t end suits that truly deal with negligence. If a maker’s gun blows up, then one can still sue them. If a dealer sells guns illegally, he can still be sued. What it does end is novel legal theories that makers can be sued if a criminal steals a gun from a home and uses it in crime and similar inane ideas.

Now, NYT really gets rolling:

With all the critical issues on the national agenda, from the Iraq war to hurricane recovery, the House's eagerness is obscene as the gun lobby herds lawmakers from both parties behind a bill to deny victimized families their fair day in court.

First, it’s not a fair day in court. Court cases have been introduced that obviously dealt from a stacked deck. Makers of and dealers in legal products have been dragged into court for making or selling legal products even though they followed strict laws. They’ve paid exorbitant fees for lawyers to defend themselves for simply being in business. If these suits were “a fair day in court” for both sides, there would be no need for this legislation.

Let’s read another insult shall we:

The bill goes beyond barring lawsuits to shielding black-market dealers from administrative loss of their licenses without near impossible burdens of proof.

“Black-market” dealer is a contradiction in terms. No truly black-market dealer has a license. If a licensed dealer breaks the law, then he or she can be prosecuted, which is a lot more serious than an administrative loss of license. Further, I thought we were innocent until proven guilty. A dealer should not lose their livelihood unless there is proof and that should be a high test indeed.

Finally, we have a bit of Bush-bashing:

President Bush talked favorably about the assault weapons ban as a candidate but was notoriously mute when the Republican Congress let the ban expire last year. Surely he would not compound the nation's gun scourge by signing the immunity bill.

I don’t want to get into the assault-weapons ban: that’s old news. In fact, I wish Bush had simply said it was an abomination and he would never sign an extension, but that’s just me. Bush will sign this immunity bill and I’ll cheer him on—despite the other ways he’s disappointed me.

Now that I’ve cleaned out the bile, I can breathe a little easier.

No comments: