Timothy Lytton, distinguished professor at Georgia State University College of Law and editor of the book Suing the Gun Industry: A Battle at the Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts, said litigation can help to push the issue of gun violence to the front of the public’s minds and also “reframe” the discussion of America’s gun crisis.
“Instead of focusing a lot of attention on the criminal shooters or mental health issues this litigation has focused attention on gun manufacturers, in terms of their design decisions, their distribution decisions and their marketing strategies,” Lytton said.
In addition, the litigation process itself could help to expose any egregious or cynical business decisions made by gun manufacturers.
“It compels [gun] industry defendants to disclose information that regulators may not have. The civil discovery system is a powerful way to force companies that do not want to disclose proprietary information to disclose that information,” Lytton said.
“That might include decisions about how they think about gun design, who they think their market is, their awareness of siphoning of their products to illegal markets.”
Lytton said there are comparisons between those lawsuits and the impact of lawsuits on the opioid industry. Victims of opioid addiction – both addicts and their families – began to file lawsuits against opioid companies in the 2000s, Lytton said, as did states and local health departments.
They made the same legal arguments that people suing gun companies are using: that the design, marketing and distribution of opioids was having an impact on people in the US.