University of Cincinnati Law Review


The rules governing the scope of liability in cases where firearms cause injuries—some well-established, others fairly novel—help to define the responsibilities of users, owners, and sellers of these popular but dangerous products. As the U.S. Supreme Court has recently expanded an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, some have wondered whether the Second Amendment might operate to limit the reach of these various tort doctrines. Sixty years ago, the Court started to constitutionalize various aspects of state common law, most famously using the First Amendment to limit defamation claims but in other respects as well. A comparable approach to the standards defining liability in the event of firearm injuries, especially now that a purely historical test seems to define the permissible reach of state action intruding on the constitutional rights of self-defense, could upend any number of settled and emerging tort rules. The prospect of granting still further immunity to the defendants in these sorts of cases represents yet another worrisome consequence of the current Court’s relentless drive to elevate the status of a right that it first discovered residing in the Second Amendment less than two decades ago.