• Twitter
  • Facebook
News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

In the gun cites

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, so a lower court's dismissal of it stands, and New York City's attempt to hold gun manufacturers liable for gun violence is over, and that might have an affect on Gary's efforts to do the same:

The appeals court had overturned a decision by Judge Jack B. Weinstein of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, who ruled in 2005 that the suit could proceed despite protests by gun makers like Beretta U.S.A., Browning Arms, Colt Manufacturing, Glock and Smith & Wesson. The gun companies had complained that a federal law passed just two months earlier shielded them from such suits.

The law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, bans most suits against the firearms industry. A narrow exception allows suits when a gun maker or dealer has knowingly violated state or federal statutes in sales and marketing practices — by knowingly selling a weapon to someone who fails a criminal background check, for example.

In its suit, New York City contended that the gun makers had made themselves liable under that narrow exception, by failing to monitor firearms retailers closely enough and thus allowing guns to end up in the hands of criminals.

Gary is also attempting to use that "narrow exception:

Gary contends gun manufacturers aided the flow of illegal weapons by selling to distributors and dealers that facilitated "straw purchases" in which a third party, often a friend or relative, purchased handguns on behalf of a convicted felon. The city launched the lawsuit after an undercover investigation in which police officers claiming to be straw purchasers were allowed to buy numerous handguns and ammunition from region gun dealers.

[. . .]

The Brady Center, which helped represent Gary in the suit, called Monday's decision "a landmark ruling with national implications" for pending cases in New York and Washington D.C

Well, maybe not so much.

In 2007, the Indiana Court of Appeals, citing a 2003 decision by the Indiana Supreme Court, ruled the city could pursue its claim from a 1999 suit that gun manufacturers intentionally ran afoul of the state's public nuisance law. "This is not simply suing them because they sell guns," said Brian Siebel, a senior attorney with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. "This is suing them because they sell guns in a manner that supplies the criminal market." Maybe I'm interpreting it too broadly, but at first glance it seems to me the Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case has made that distinction a lot harder to make. In the ongoing battle between gun rights and gun control, this is at least a small step for the former. Stand by for Paul Helmke's usual disapproval.


tim zank
Tue, 03/10/2009 - 8:57am

" Stand by for Paul Helmke