Accusing a Group of Buying Legislation:

Slate runs a piece critical of the new bill preempting various lawsuits against gun manufacturers and retailers. The title of the piece is "Fire Sale," and the subtitle is "How the gun industry bought itself immunity from the rule of law." The piece ends with "Other industries will surely recognize the utility of such legislation and will seek similar treatment when they are sued. Doubtless they will make some steep campaign donations to get it. And why not, since the rule of law appears to be suddenly up for sale?"

But — unless I've missed something big — the piece never points to gun manufacturers buying anything. There's nothing said about any supposed contributions by gun manufacturers to legislators. There's nothing about any supposed bribes. The author obviously disagrees with the substance of the law, but he doesn't give any evidence that there was something corrupt about the process through which it was enacted. (By the way, see here for a brief note on the gun industry's general income and political giving — it turns out that both were low as industries go, at least as of 2000.)

Where then is the justification for the article's title, or the closing two sentences?

There is much else that I disagree with in the article. The gun industry has been exposed to novel theories of legal liability, which don't apply to other industries: If I'm hit by a 20-year-old driver who was drunk on Coors and driving a Ford Mustang, I wouldn't be able to hold the alcohol manufacturer or car manufacturer liable — even if the manufacturer sold the Coors to a liquor store in a college town (so that the manufacturer must surely have known that some fraction of its products would end up in the hands of the underaged), even if the manufacturer knew that the liquor store had been suspected in past unlawful sales (but still was allowed by the state to sell beer), and even if I can persuade the jury that car manufacturers shouldn't be able to sell really fast and powerful cars, especially to 20-year-olds, who are notoriously prone to speeding. Yet many of the gun manufacturer lawsuits were very similar to these lawsuits, and Congress was right to preempt them. Likewise, contrary to what the piece suggests, many other industries have been the subjects of industry-specific preemption laws: The Employee Retirement Income Security Act has an even broader preemption provision; Geier v. Honda Motor Co. illustrates federal preemption of certain state tort law claims against car manufacturers; there are other examples. (For more substantive points on this, see here, here, here, and here.) But for now, I thought I'd focus on the "buying" accusation.