Basic position statement
The "smart gun"/ safety lock fraud
Verdict against Valor Corporation: where's the outrage?
Lies, damned lies, and statistics
Confusing cause (design variables) with effect (response variables)
|Frivolous Lawsuits Against the Firearm Industry
Unscrupulous individuals, organizations, and governments (e.g. municipalities)
are filing lawsuits against firearm manufacturers for the damage that results
from the misuse of these products. Many of these entities have serious
probems with ethics, character, good faith, and integrity but, since this
is a professional and not a political Web page, it will limit itself to
the technological aspects of these lawsuits.
I can offer consulting and probably expert witness
services with regard to the "lies, damned lies, and statistics" (to use
Mark Twain's words) that are used by plaintiffs in these cases. The
Brady Center to Prevent Handgun Violence (formerly Handgun Control Inc.)
has a long record of distorting and misusing statistics to "prove" its
points. Note: I am not impartial, nor do I claim to be impartial, on the
Second Amendment. I provide, however, nothing but accurate and verifiable
information to clients and third parties. In fact, my preference would
be to provide a court with evidence that it could verify for itself. People
are generally more receptive when they prove something to themselves as
opposed to taking someone else's word for it.
Basic position statement
It is the position of Levinson Productivity Systems, P.C.,
that manufacturing is the foundation of the United States' military security
and economic well-being. Manufacturing, agriculture, and extractive industries
like mining are the only activities that create wealth. Anyone
and anything that attacks a manufacturing firm without just cause is attacking
the foundation of our country's affluence and security.
The "smart gun"/ safety lock issue
(See William A. Levinon's letter to the editor, Wall Street Journal,
5 November 2002)
This does not mean that manufacturing companies should not be accountable
when product defects cause harm. I would certainly consider a firearm manufacturer
liable if (assuming that the user hadn't left an obstruction in the barrel)
one of its products blew up in its user's face. I'd hold the manufacturer
responsible if the firing pin or hammer fell without the trigger being
pulled, although the user is still responsible for making sure the firearm
is always pointed in a safe direction.
Anti-Second Amendment groups sometimes compare firearms to tobacco
and try to hold firearm manufacturers accountable for deaths and injuries
that result from firearm misuse. This is a fraudulent analogy because
firearms (and alcohol), when used in a safe and responsible manner for
their intended purposes, have essentially zero chance of harming
their users or innocent third parties. This is not true of tobacco, which
damages health even when it is used safely and responsibly (i.e. not in
bed or around flammable materials).
Attempting to hold a firearm manufacturer responsible for damage that
results from the firearm's misuse is like suing the automobile manufacturer
and the distiller when a drunk driver kills or injures an innocent person.
The bartender who actually served the alcohol might be liable* if
it can be shown that he knowingly served an intoxicated person, but it
is ludicrous to blame the distiller who made the beverage. The automaker
might be liable if a physical defect in the car, like faulty brakes or
steering, contributed to the accident, but not if the accident was due
solely to the fact that a pink elephant happened to be the night's designated
It is accordingly my position* that these lawsuits against gun manufacturers
are frivolous and meritless. I also think that most of those who are filing
them know it.
* I am not an attorney and nothing on this page constitutes legal advice.
Nothing here is to be construed as engineering advice; I cannot provide
official engineering advice without reviewing your situation, and
I may need to become licensed in your state to do this. Furthermore, I
recommend consultation with a mechanical engineer regarding expert testimony
on the actual mechanical design of any firearm, as this is not among my
areas of expertise.
Anti-Second Amendment groups are now arguing that firearms
should be fitted with safety locks or other "smart" technology that will
prevent anyone but their authorized users from firing them. As an example,
(the Brady Center is involved in this) says in part, "Despite having the
ability to design weapons that will fire only in the hands of authorized
users, gun manufacturers have refused to do so. Under Florida law, a distributor
or dealer who sells a defectively designed product can be held liable just
as the manufacturer can be held liable." To assess the merits of this argument,
we need look no further than the following:
Verdict against Valor Corporation in
shooting incident. Where did they find these jurors?
A firearm that is kept for self-protection is a piece of emergency equipment.
Consider a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher, whose dry-ice discharge can
endanger anyone who happens to be in its path. Only a safety pin prevents
the extinguisher from being discharged, and there's a good reason for this;
if you need it, you need it in a hurry. The need is even more urgent with
a firearm. A fire (which you should try to escape unless you're sure you
can fight it successfully) won't deliberately pursue you if you decide
to run away from it, and it's not capable of shooting you in the back.
An armed assailant is far more dangerous, and that's what your firearm
equipment is designed to stop. You cannot afford to fiddle and fumble
with any kind of lock under these circumstances.
Handgun Control Inc./ Brady Center attorney Dennis Henigen "At a recent
antigun conference in Chicago, Mr. Henigan, who is the top lawyer with
Handgun Control Inc., the country's largest gun control organization, waved
a version of the [Saf T Lock], extolling how easy it is to operate. Then,
punching in what he thought was the correct combination, the lawyer failed
to unlock the gun, much to the evident discomfort of the sympathetic audience."
He excused his failure with the words, "Even if a klutz like me fumbles
on the first try, the benefits of having a lock outweigh the risks." (Barrett,
"A Simple Invention Points Up Complexity of Gun-Control Suits," Wall
Street Journal, 4/23/99, A1).
Sorry, Mr. Henigan, you don't get a second try. Had you been facing a violent
assailant instead of a friendly audience, you would be dead, along
with any family members who were relying on you for protection. In fact,
no ethical design engineer-- and the Brady Center's position criticizes
firearm designs-- would ever design a feature into a product that could
easily result in serious harm to its owner, as you proved to yourself
that the Saf T Lock could.
Maryland governor Parris Glendening, another gun control supporter and
advocate of so-called smart guns, offers the following evidence: "Yesterday,
the Maryland-National Capital Park Police announced that its officers would
begin using one version of the locks, locking magazines, on their Glock
pistols when they are off-duty. At a photo opportunity at the department's
Silver Spring headquarters, Glendening had an extended struggle to remove
a locking magazine from one of the pistols." --"Dumbing Down Smart Guns:
Md. Senate to Vote on a Weakened Version of Bill." Daniel LeDuc, Washington
Post Staff Writer, Thursday, March 23, 2000; Page B04
One might also ask why police officers, who are often killed with their
own firearms, aren't first in line to install such technology on their
- Electromagnetic interference weapons could conceivably make "smart guns" useless. Per Ivan Amato, "Crossed
the wireless threat to our electronic infrastructure" (U.S. News &
World Report, 16 December 2002, 54-56), "Virtually any electronic
could be disabled, or even destroyed, by electromagnetic interference."
The article describes how a high school student built a prototype EMI
from scavanged parts and shut down his computer and phone lines in
Almost-homemade EMI weapons have also been successful in disabling
radios, medical intravenous pumps. A more-powerful EMI weapon
fried engine control computers at 1000 yards (almost a kilometer).
criminals used an EMI device to make a Pachninko machine spit out cash.
Secondly, people do strange things in emergency situations. I recall
a laboratory fire when I was in college. I thought for some reason that
squeezing the fire extinguisher's lower handle would discharge it--
so I picked up the whole thing by its body after I pulled the pin. Only
when I squeezed the two handles to discharge it at the fire did I realize
that the upper handle is the trigger. And I thought I was
handling the situation in a very calm and detached manner, too. The fire,
unlike an armed assailant, did not present an immediate threat to my life
either, although I recall thinking that it could have touched off nearby
Many muzzleloading Civil War rifles were found with several charges
in them. This is evidence that the soldier didn't realize that his rifle
hadn't fired, so he loaded a second charge (and then a third and a fourth)
on top of the first. These soldiers had been drilled to load and fire as
quickly as possible, but they still made mistakes in a life-threatening
situation. My father told me that, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor,
his unit's machinegunner forgot to fill the gun's water jacket before he
began to fire at the Japanese, and he burned out the barrel.
Dennis Henigan and Parris Glendening botched a simple demonstration,
in front of friendly audiences, with gun safety locks. One can only imagine
how they'd have done in confrontations with armed assailants who were trying
to kill them but these two individuals (and their cohorts) have no problem
with continuing to insist that they are right.
Gun Company Must Pay Teacher's Widow (Click10.com
for complete story)
The only explanation of which I can think is that the jury consisted solely
of people who buy supermarket tabloids (and take them as fact), and/or
are addicted Flordia State Lottery players. Using this jury's logic: "X
steals an automobile from Y, and then deliberately drives it into a crowd
of people. Y (the theft victim) and the automobile manufacturer are responsible
for the damages, but X is not responsible."
Posted: 5:02 p.m. EST November 14, 2002
Updated: 10:19 a.m. EST November 15, 2002
...The case stems from the murder of teacher Barry Grunow by one of
his students. Nathaniel Brazill, 16, shot Grunow to death two years ago
in a West Palm Beach classroom.
Grunow's lawyer asked for $76 million. But the jury found gun
distributor Valor Corporation 5 percent liable for Grunow's death. The
owner of the gun and the school board held the most of the liability, the
The jury didn't find any liability for Brazill, who pulled the trigger.
Brazill stole the unloaded gun and bullets from a cookie tin stashed away
in a dresser drawer of family friend Elmore McCray.
Lies, damned lies, and statistics
from Handgun Control Inc.
This is an area in which I am probably qualified to offer expert
testimony. I am an applied statistician with numerous publications and
I also have extensive experience in making statistical
concepts understandable to laymen, such as manufacturing operators-- so
I can make them understandable to judges and jurors.
Confusing cause and effect
Consider the statement, "Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West
Point lost half the major battles in one of the United States' biggest
wars." This statement is absolutely true, and someone who didn't like West
Point could use it to suggest that the USMA does not train competent officers.
Now for the complete story: the war in question was the Civil War, and
West Point-trained officers were usually commanding both sides. There was
obviously no way that West Point officers could win more than half the
Civil War's battles.
The following is an exact quote from Handgun Control Incorporated,
(as of 1999, it's now the Brady Center)
"Thinking of buying a gun to protect your home? You may want
to remember that guns kept in the home for self-protection are 43 times
more likely to kill a family member or friend than to kill in self-defense."
This sounds like a good case for not having guns until you consider the
fact that "family members" include abusive spouses who are often under
court orders to stay away from the spouse who is in the home. If a woman
kills her estranged husband as he is trying to break into the home to attack
her and her children, for example, he falls into the "family member" casualty
statistics. The same applies to a family member who, with murderous intent,
goes out and buys a firearm (legally or illegally) with which to kill another
family member. (That is, the murderous intent is the cause of the firearm
being present, as opposed to the firearm's presence sparking a "crime of
passion.") "Friends" (or, more accurately, associates- "someone you know")
include drug dealers and other criminals. If a drug dealer kills a supplier,
customer, or rival, the killing counts toward "associates." A pimp (criminal)
who kills one of his "girls" is killing "someone he knows," and vice versa.
If Al Capone's hoods knew Bugs Moran's hoods, the Saint Valentine's Day
massacre also would fall into this category.
Now examine the words, "43 times more likely to kill," which
suggest that a gun that is kept for self-defense is unlikely to prevent
a violent assault on its owner. From police instructor Massad
Truth About Self Protection, page 327. "For every one shooting
thirteen to fifteen criminals are deterred or driven off just by the sight
of the gun, and this fully accomplishes what the homeowner bought the gun
for in the first place. When you also consider the fact that only about
one out of four people who are shot actually dies, you realize that for
every home intruder shot dead by the resident, there are ninety-nine others
who don't get killed, but who give up their assaults."
Brochure from Doctors for Integrity in Research & Public Policy,
located at 5201 Norris Canyon Road, Suite 140, San Ramon, CA 94583. "Gun
prohibitionists would have us believe that most murders involve ordinary
people driven to kill in a sudden fit of rage, only because a gun was present.
This is based on HCI's distortion of the FBI's Uniform Crime Report statistics.
To the FBI, a murderer that lives in the victim's apartment building
or drug criminals that know each other are 'acquaintances.' ... Almost
all the 'relatives' killed each year are the very same men, well-known
to the police, that have been brutalizing their wives, girlfriends,
and children for years - those men are killed in self-defense."
Industrial statisticians know the difference between the design
or input variables (the causes) and the response variable (the effect).
Anti-Second Amendment organizations like to switch them around to confuse
and deceive their audiences.
Consider the following statement. During the Middle Ages (before Europeans
took to bathing regularly), healthy people usually had lice. Sick people,
however, had no lice. Accordingly, it was healthy to have lice. (That is,
lice are the cause and good health is the effect.) The reason for the indicated
observation was, however, that sick people's fevers drove their lice away.
Good health, or not having a fever, was the cause and the presence of the
lice was the effect.
Handgun Control Incorporated's news release, "Statement of Sarah Brady
re: Gun Deaths, Injuries on the Decline," provides a glaring example of
deceptive manipulation of statistics. From HCI's own Web page, (http://www.handguncontrol.org/press/release.asp?Record=104
from 1999, link may have changed or been removed): "What’s more, a more
sobering study conducted by the Violence Prevention Research Program at
the University of California-Davis found that suicide is the leading cause
of death among gun buyers, especially women, in the first year after the
weapon was purchased. In fact, the study -- which was published in the
New England Journal of Medicine -- found that a person who purchases a
handgun is 57 times more likely to commit suicide within a week of buying
the weapon than the general population as a whole."
The statement confuses cause with effect, and it can easily mislead
people who are not statisticians- which is doubtlessly its intention. The
figure that Ms. Brady presents implies that, if YOU buy a handgun, you
are 57 times more likely to commit suicide within a week of buying it than
a member of the general population. That is what HCI wants you to believe.
The truth is that the relatively small population of people who buy handguns
any given week (remember, even gun owners may buy only one or two in
their entire lifetimes) includes all first-time gun buyers
sole intention is to do away with themselves. This subset of first-time
gun buyers is small, but it is compared to a
very small subset of
the population: the number who buy handguns in any given week.
In other words, buying a handgun does not make anyone more likely to want
to commit suicide, but planning to commit suicide can make someone much
more likely to buy a handgun if they don't have one. One could probably
come up with similar "statistics" for first-time purchasers of ropes, sleeping
pills, and straight razor blades.
What HCI wants you to believe: "If I buy a gun, I'll realize that I have
an easy means of ending my life, and during the first week of ownership
I'll be so tempted to blow my brains out that I just won't be able to help
The truth: A suicidal person who has never owned a gun thinks, "I can hang
myself, but that might be painful and messy. Pills are painless but they're
not certain: someone may find me before I check out." [Psychiatrists think
that many people who use pills want to be found and that their suicide
attempt is really a "cry for help."] "A knife or a razor might be painful;
I don't think I can do it. A gun ought to be both certain and painless,
so I'll buy a gun." Now, someone who does this will doubtlessly use the
gun within a day or so of buying it.