19 J. Legis. 287 (1993)
Corrective Justice and the D.C. Assault Weapon Liability Act

handle is hein.journals/jleg19 and id is 293 raw text is: CORRECTIVE JUSTICE AND THE D.C. ASSAULT
WEAPON LIABILITY ACT
In November 1991, the citizens of Washington D.C. enacted by referendum
the D.C. Assault Weapon Manufacturing Strict Liability Act,' holding manufac-
turers, -importers, and dealers of military style assault weapons responsible for
injuries and deaths caused by the use of their products. Seventy-seven percent of
the voters approved the referendum.2
The measure was a binding vote that reinstated a law which the City Council
had previously repealed.' The council first passed the law in late 1990 in response
to escalating drug-related violence in the city.4 Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly then
urged its repeal in response to pressure from Capitol Hill, which held the keys
to her financial bailout plan.' A coalition of ministers revived the proposal by
petitioning to have it placed on the November ballot.6
The act is unique; it represents the first imposition of strict liability on gun
manufacturers by a legislature. Although the courts originated and developed
this theory of liability, they have generally been unwilling to extend strict products
liability to the manufacture or distribution of firearms.7 In the wake of increasing
urban violence involving military style assault weapons, however, gun control
advocates sense a public willingness to pass measures such as this.8
Part I of this Note discusses attempts to impose strict liability on gun makers
and dealers through the courts. Part II analyzes the liability elements and defenses
contained in the D.C. Act. Part III looks at corrective justice principles as
developed by several theorists and proposes the following postulate: As between
the relevant parties to a transaction, the party most outcome responsible for the
loss has the duty to annul the loss and restore the balance of interests. Part IV
then applies this axiom to the D.C. law, and concludes that although the law is
a sound application of corrective justice principles, it currently rests on invalid
premises. This Note concludes that, as a political matter, laws like this one are
difficult to justify when they are articulated on instrumentalist grounds. Instead
of viewing the law as a tool to accomplish social goals, it is more defensible
when grounded in corrective justice.
1. D.C. CODE ANN. §§ 6-2391 to -2393 (Supp. 1992).
2. Keith A. Harrison, Eight Months Later, No Suits Filed Under D.C. Gun-Liability Law,
WASH. POST, Aug. 26, 1992, at D3.
3. Assault Weapon Manufacturing Strict Liability Act of 1990 Temporary Repealer Act of
1991, D.C. Act 9-8, Mar. 15, 1991.
4. Kent Jenkins Jr., District's Gun Liability Law Again Under Fire From the Hill, WASH.
POST, Jan. 27, 1992, at B3.
5. Jonetta Rose Barras, Weapons Liability in Effect Today, WASH. TIMEs, Dec. 26, 1991, at
B1.
6. Kent Jenkins Jr., District's Gun Liability Law Again Under Fire From the Hill, WASH.
POST, Jan. 27, 1992, at B3.
7. See infra notes 24-30 and accompanying text; see Carl T. Bogus, Pistols, Politics, and
Products Liability, 59 U. Cmr. L. REv. 1103 (1991).
8. Don J. DeBenedictis, Boy Scout Gun Suit Rejected, ABA JOuRNAL, Jan. 1992, at 21.

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