In "Sue the Gun Makers" [letters, Oct. 29], Dennis A. Henigan takes issue with the Oct. 12 editorial "Guns in Court" on the basis of legal legitimacy of court actions. He addresses the argument that "[a]s a legal matter, it is hard to see how companies making lawful products can be held liable when those products perform precisely as intended -- even when the intent is death."

However, in the case of the tobacco lawsuits, the "victim" arguably contracts with the tobacco company to provide a product and accepts the risks, which are plainly stated on the package. The victim of gun-related crime is most often not a party to the transactions whereby the gun arrived in the hands of the criminal. While the product may perform as intended, the victim did not contract with any of those in the supply chain of the weapon to put it in the hands of the criminal, and the victim is not the one causing the product to perform. Hence, those outside the transactions are incurring costs related to transactions to which they were not party. Courts are available to put the costs where they belong, using whatever legal theory is available.

HENRY E. KILPATRICK Jr.

Fairfax

The writer is a research fellow at the Institute of Public Policy at George Mason University.

The Oct. 20 front-page article on "tough gun laws" says that Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran's report cites studies showing that in 1994, 200 people hospitalized for "fatal" gunshot wounds cost his state $200 million in medical and police expenses. One million for each victim, and the victims died?

ROBERT KAMBEITZ

Calgary, Canada