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Yesterday, the New York Court of Appeals joined the ever-growing list of courts that have rejected reckless lawsuits against gun makers by unanimously ruling that victims of firearm-related violence cannot sue firearm manufacturers for the criminal misuse of a non-defective product (i.e., firearms). The suit, Hamilton v. Accu-Tek, is one of dozens that are heavily supported by the gun-ban lobby, HCI, its "educational" arm the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence (CPHV), and many other anti-gun organizations. These reckless lawsuits are designed to circumvent the legislative process—where the anti-gun community has suffered countless defeats—and harass the firearm industry either into bankruptcy, or into allowing anti-gun organizations or bureaucrats to dictate how gun makers design and market their products.
Thursday's ruling held that firearm manufacturers cannot be held liable when their legally produced, legally distributed, non-defective products are used by violent criminals. The court also stated that "Federal law already has implemented a statutory and regulatory scheme to ensure seller ‘responsibility' through licensing requirements and buyer ‘responsibility' through background checks." Further, the ruling rejected the "reforms" to the firearm industry proposed by the plaintiffs because of a failure to show how such changes in manufacturing or marketing practices would reduce the criminal misuse of firearms, and because the court found the proposed changes would eliminate "a significant number of lawful sales to ‘responsible' buyers by ‘responsible' Federal firearms licensees...." The ruling also concluded that the suit's demand that manufacturers investigate Federal firearms licensees for possible illegal activity was "neither feasible nor appropriate," noting that "the plaintiffs' own law enforcement experts agreed that the manufacturers should not make any attempt to investigate illegal gun trafficking on their own since such attempts could disrupt pending criminal investigations and endanger the lives of undercover officers."
"We are extremely gratified by today's ruling because the Court recognized that by complying with the extensive statutory and regulatory scheme established by Congress and administered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) federally licensed firearms manufacturers distribute and sell their lawful products in a safe and responsible manner and help to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals," said Robert T. Delfay, president and chief executive officer of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc., the trade association for the firearms industry. "We have long supported law enforcement's efforts to combat illegal firearms trafficking and cooperate whenever and however we are asked to do so, but, obviously, recognize that we have no law enforcement authority and should not do things that jeopardize those efforts or put law enforcement officers in danger," added Delfay.
This is just the latest judicial rejection of reckless lawsuits against gun makers. Courts across the country have been throwing out similar cases—including some filed by a cabal of anti-gun big-city mayors—and this tactic is also being rejected by state legislatures. Just last week, Indiana became the 25th state to enact a law that prohibits municipalities from filing these suits, and Florida (see "A Look At The States") is poised to put us over the half-way point. There is also NRA-backed federal legislation that calls for a national prohibition on reckless lawsuits against the firearm industry—H.R. 123—introduced by U.S. Representative (and NRA Director) Bob Barr (R-Ga.). As the courts and legislatures continue to reject this extortion effort by the anti-gun community, we will continue to keep you updated.
Gun owners rally to support bills
JEFFERSON CITY — Handguns attracted much attention in Missouri’s statehouse Wednesday as the state Senate debated a bill to force St. Louis to drop its lawsuit against handgun manufacturers.
Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, introduced the bill, which would prohibit state and local governments from suing firearm or ammunition manufacturers.
“Tobacco was unpopular. Guns are unpopular. Who’s next?” Kinder asked Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, one of only a handful of Senate opponents to Kinder’s bill.
“Alcohol,” Jacob replied. Again Kinder asked, “Who’s next? The fast-food industry for making people obese?”
On the opening day of the debate, Kinder’s main opposition came from Sen. John Schneider, D-St. Louis County. Schneider offered five amendments during the morning session. All were shot down by margins of about 4-to-1.
“This is a dangerous bill. It has been written by very, very adept people. It is the slickest language,” Schneider said.
Jacob joined Schneider’s opposition, offering three amendments, all of which were defeated. Jacob argued that the issue was about letting citizens have their day in court.
St. Louis is one of several cities that have filed lawsuits against the handgun manufacturing industry, charging that their products have contributed to the homicide and assault rates of urban America.
The Senate adjourned for the day without taking a final vote on the proposal. Votes on several amendments showed that the bill has overwhelming support in the Senate.
Senate debate began on the same day the National Rifle Association held a rally at the statehouse to support legislation to allow Missourians to carry concealed weapons. Hundreds gathered in the Capital rotunda Wednesday morning to garner support from legislators.
“I own a gun and at times I carry a gun — and I’m a Democrat,” said House Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa. “Missouri Democrats are fiercely independent. We still believe in the traditions and freedoms that built this country.”
Although Missourians narrowly voted down a concealed weapons proposition in 1999, the issue has been reintroduced by the House Majority Leader, Rep. Wayne Crump, D-Jefferson County.
Under Crump’s bill, a statewide vote would not be required to make carrying concealed weapons legal.
JUDGE DISMISSES CAMDEN COUNTY'S LAWSUIT AGAINST FIREARMS INDUSTRY
NEWTOWN, CT. -- New Jersey Federal Court Judge Jerome B. Simandle dismissed
Camden County, New Jersey's lawsuit against the firearms industry on December 5,
finding that the County had no standing to sue because it could not show that
the firearm manufacturers' distribution and sale of legal, non-defective
products in compliance with extensive federal and state laws and regulations
caused a public nuisance or caused the County to incur governmental costs to
prevent, prosecute and punish gun crimes.
The County's allegations, said Judge Simandle, "amount[ed] to scarcely little more than an assertion that because the gun manufacturers distribute their products, they eventually fall into the wrong hands, are used to commit crimes against persons and property 'causing' the County to expend money for law enforcement."
The court said, "there simply is not a sufficient nexus between the defendants' [lawful sale and distribution and sale of non-defective firearms] and the alleged injury to the government and citizens of Camden County."
Judge Simandle dismissed the County's negligent distribution and marketing, negligent entrustment and public nuisance claims. Earlier this year, the court had dismissed the County's other claims.
"We are gratified by the court's ruling because it reaffirms that it is wrong for politicians and greedy trial lawyers to blame a responsible industry for crime. Camden County's lawsuit would not have saved a single life or prevented a single crime from occurring; all it did was waste taxpayer money," said Lawrence G. Keane, vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry's major trade association.
"The marketing and distribution of firearms is controlled by an extensive government regulatory system created by Congress and enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, unsupervised juveniles and others," said Keane. "NSSF and its member companies cooperate every day with law enforcement agencies to combat crime," added Keane. "The firearms industry has a proud safety record. Firearms accidents are at their lowest levels ever because of the safe and well-made products this industry manufactures and firearms safety education programs and initiatives sponsored by the industry and other groups."
Camden County joins Chicago, Miami, Bridgeport (Connecticut) and Cincinnati in having their politically motivated lawsuits to hold a responsible industry accountable for the criminal misuse of firearms dismissed.
ANOTHER RECKLESS LAWSUIT SUFFERS DEFEAT
U.S. District Judge Berle M. Schiller dismissed the City of Philadelphia's reckless lawsuit against gun manufacturers, stating that the city was trying to control members of the firearms industry through litigation, because it was unable to do so by imposing new ordinances. Schiller cited the 1995 Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act and a 1999 amendment to the Act—both supported by NRA—as well as judicial precedent in his decision. He stated, "Under Pennsylvania law and by unequivocal Pennsylvania Supreme Court precedent, the power to regulate firearms within the state now lies exclusively with the state legislature." Schiller also stated that the NRA-backed 1999 amendment was specifically intended "to prohibit this very case." City Solicitor Kenneth I. Trujillo stated that the city is "quite likely" to appeal, thus wasting more taxpayer funds on its worthless effort.
Last updated: March 22, 2005