Gun Rights vs. Centralization
Ron Paul in the US House of Representatives, April 9, 2003
Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a firm believer in the Second amendment and an opponent of all federal gun laws. In fact, I have introduced legislation, the Second Amendment Restoration Act (HR 153), which repeals misguided federal gun control laws such as the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban. I believe the Second amendment is one of the foundations of our constitutional liberties. However, Mr. Speaker, another foundation of those liberties is the oath all of us took to respect constitutional limits on federal power. While I understand and sympathize with the goals of the proponents of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (HR 1036), this bill exceeds those constitutional limitations, and so I must oppose it.
It is long past time for Congress to recognize that not every problem requires a federal solution. This country’s founders understood the need to separate power between federal, state, and local governments to maximize individual liberty and make government most responsive to citizens. The reservation of most powers to the states strictly limited the role of the federal government in dealing with civil liability matters; it reserved jurisdiction over matters of civil tort, such as alleged gun-related negligence suits, to the state legislatures.
While I am against the federalization of tort reform, I must voice my complete disapproval of the very nature of these suits brought against gun manufacturers. Lawsuits for monetary damages from gun violence should be filed against the perpetrators of those crimes, not gun manufacturers! Holding manufacturers liable for harm they could neither foresee nor prevent is irresponsible and outlandish. The company that makes a properly functioning product in accordance with the law is acting lawfully, and thus should not be taken to court because of misuse by the purchaser (or in many cases, by a criminal who stole the weapon). Clearly these lawsuits are motivated not by a concern for justice, but by a search for deep pockets and a fanatical anti-gun political agenda.
However, Mr. Speaker, the most disturbing aspect of these lawsuits is the idea that guns, which are inanimate objects, are somehow responsible for crimes. HR 1036 shifts the focus away from criminals and their responsibility for their actions. It adds to the cult of irresponsibility that government unfortunately so often promotes. This further erodes the ethics of individual responsibility for one’s own actions that must form the basis of a free and moral society. The root problem of violence is not the gun in the hand, but the gun in the heart: each person is accountable for the deeds that flow out of his or her own heart. One can resort to any means available to commit a crime, such as knives, fertilizer, pipes, or baseball bats. Should we start suing the manufacturers of these products as well because they are used in crimes? Of course not — the implications are preposterous.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would remind my fellow supporters of gun rights that using unconstitutional federal powers to restrict state gun lawsuits makes it more likely those same powers will be used to restrict our gun rights. Despite these lawsuits, the number one threat to gun ownership remains a federal government freed of its constitutional restraints. Expanding that government in any way, no matter how just the cause may seem, is not in the interests of gun owners or lovers of liberty.
In conclusion, while I share the concern over the lawsuits against gun manufacturers, which inspired HR 1036, this bill continues the disturbing trend toward federalization of tort law. Enhancing the power of the federal government is not in the long-term interests of defenders of the Second amendment and other constitutional liberties. Therefore, I must oppose this bill.
Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.