Two new developments offer promising strategies for addressing the nation’s epidemic of gun violence. Importantly, neither depend on healing a bitterly divided Congress or aligning mixed public sentiments about gun control.
First, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear Remington Arms Co. v. Soto paves the way for the lawsuit filed by relatives and a survivor of the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School against the manufacturer of the weapon used in the murderous attack.
The plaintiffs allege that Remington deliberately marketed its AR-15-style rifle as a highly lethal killing tool, targeting at-risk young men through militaristic advertisements and product placement in violent video games. They argue in doing so, the company violated Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act and therefore the immunity granted to gun manufactures for crimes committed with their products should not apply.
Allowing the lawsuit to advance should shed new light into Remington’s internal marketing strategies. The victims’ attorneys have asked for market research, emails, communications and other internal documents. Just as with early lawsuits against tobacco manufacturers, these documents could help illuminate how — and whether — public safety and potential for misuse enters into Remington’s business decisions, leading to a larger dialogue about cultural and social influences on gun violence.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Josh Koskoff, wrote in a widely reported statement, “We are ready to resume discovery and proceed towards trial in order to shed light on Remington’s profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users at the expense of Americans’ safety.”
Closer to home, Tacoma took a laudable step on Tuesday by emulating Seattle’s gun and ammunition tax, with proceeds to fund anti-violence initiatives.
The Seattle tax, instituted in 2015, was itself modeled after a Chicago tax, and withstood a court challenge from the NRA and other gun advocates with an 8-1 state Supreme Court decision.
Tacoma’s tax is a worthy first step. The city council anticipates about $30,000 in annual revenue and will use a study group to determine how best to spend the money to curtail gun violence.
In Seattle’s case, the revenue is directed to the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center. The city has since learned that its early projections of $300,000 to $500,000 a year were optimistic for a tax of $25 per firearm and 2 to 5 cents per bullet or shell. Annual collections have fallen consistently, from about $104,000 in 2016 to $77,643 last year, according to the Seattle Department of Finance and Administrative Services.
Tacoma’s leaders may face a similar trend and will need to earmark its tax dollars prudently to get more results than simply running gun dealers out of town.
Together, these are small but crucial steps toward finding new solutions to America’s No. 1 public-health crisis.