Do corporations have a responsibility to society if their products are being misused and causing extreme harm? We have faced this question before. In 1965, activist Ralph Nader wrote a book critiquing the auto industry’s safety record. In response, Congress passed a law that led to major improvements in car safety.

Today, the same question arises regarding the gun industry. Gun manufacturer Glock produces a popular handgun that is easily converted to an illegal automatic weapon capable of firing up to 1,200 bullets per minute. Police in Chicago and elsewhere are seeing more and more of these guns in our streets, churches, parades, grocery stores, streets, homes, essentially everywhere. At the University of Chicago Medicine Trauma Center where I work, we are seeing more and more victims with multiple gunshot wounds. Most of them are young Black males caught in the web of limited opportunities, structural violence and the illegal economy.

We may soon find out if Glock has any responsibility to stop the illegal conversions of its guns. The City of Chicago is suing the company under a new state law aimed at holding the gun industry accountable.


I salute the city and the state for these efforts, but I’m not holding my breath. Historically, the courts have favored gunmakers over gun safety and have interpreted the Second Amendment to basically allow anyone to own weapons of war. The sheer number of guns in America — estimated at around 400 million — means that laws and lawsuits will do little to reduce the scourge of gun violence. The clear message from the gun industry is, our products are legal, so deal with it.

We, along with our colleagues in other Level One trauma centers, deal with it every day. Five years ago, we opened the first trauma center on Chicago’s South Side. Since then, we have treated over 22,000 patients, including almost 8,000 with gunshot wounds.

And it’s not the only thing Chicago is doing. Today, thanks to an extraordinary partnership of philanthropy, government and business, a network of approximately two dozen community organizations are directly intervening to stop gun violence. Community violence intervention organizations hire individuals with the trust, respect and credibility necessary to engage directly with young people at the highest risk of shooting or being shot. They recruit participants into programs offering support, trauma treatment, education, job training and a path into the legal economy. Collectively, these organizations in Chicago serve thousands of young people in dozens of neighborhoods. They are now poised to expand their work as funding becomes available.

So yes, Chicago is dealing with the consequences of gun violence in numerous creative and aspirational ways. But what about the gun industry? What is their responsibility to ensure that their products are not misused?


Chicago’s lawsuit vs. Glock is an aggressive step against gun violence. Gun violence against America’s children keeps getting worse. Failure to act puts us all at risk. In this era of smartphones, space travel, and artificial intelligence, gun manufacturers can make guns safer with, for instance, technology to keep anyone but the gun owner from firing a weapon. Can they make a gun that cannot be modified into a weapon of war?

We are all at risk from gunmakers’ failure to act, including police, who are expected to confront and arrest individuals armed with automatic weapons. The only winners in the arms race are the gun manufacturers. This problem is not limited to cities like Chicago. In fact, the highest per capita murder rates in the country are in southern and western states like Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and New Mexico. It may be naive to think Glock would voluntarily modify its products to make them safer. It may be wishful thinking to believe the broader gun industry would hold itself accountable for the safety of its products. I don’t know if public pressure — including from law enforcement — would prompt action.

But I do know this. Gun violence claims over 40,000 American lives every year, including thousands of children. Firearm-related injuries are now the leading cause of death of children and adolescents. Almost twice that number are injured, costing us all of us tens of billions of dollars in health care treatments and lost economic opportunity, and immeasurable lost human potential. As more and more of us recognize the staggeringly high costs of gun violence, my hope is we unite behind a broad range of efforts to make our world safer. That includes gun safety laws, community violence intervention programs, effective law enforcement, and medical and holistic services like our trauma center provides. Ideally, it would also include gun manufacturers with a conscience.

Selwyn Rogers, MD is the director of the University of Chicago Trauma Center. He is also a board member of Chicago CRED and the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago

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