It's the Law

"Sue the makers" isn't working out the way anti-gunners wanted it to.

Field & Stream Online Editors

What with the recent catastrophe at the World Trade Center and our subsequent efforts to bomb the hell out of a collection of murderous troglodytes, some good news for gun owners has been lost in the headlines.

Roughly four years ago the city of New Orleans, whose police force was so corrupt that the FBI had to come in and run it, came up with a groundbreaking concept that said, in effect: "Since we have failed to keep people from shooting each other, let's get the heat off ourselves and make some money in the process by holding gun manufacturers liable for the carnage." Electrified by the brilliance of it all, other anti-gun crusaders, liability lawyers, and city governments pitched in until a total of 22 suits had been filed either against individual gunmakers or against the industry as a whole.

It was hoped by anti-gunners that this new tactic would bring the gun industry to its knees, but things haven't worked out that way. Following is a very brief summary of where these suits stand, and for it, I am deeply indebted to Lawrence G. Keane, Esq., of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

**Atlanta: **Hopelessly muddled. It will be many months before there is any kind of decision.

**Boston: **The case is now in discovery. The defendants (gun manufacturers) have demanded to see what kind of job the city of Boston has done in preventing firearms violence, and the court has ordered the city to comply.

Bridgeport: The Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of the case, and Bridgeport's mayor, who is under investigation on federal corruption charges, has said he would probably not appeal.

California (San Francisco, Los Angeles): As in Boston, the case is in discovery. A trial date has been set for May of this year.

**Chicago: **The case is on appeal.

**Cincinnati: **The city's suit was thrown out by the trial and appellate courts. It was appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, where a decision is expected in several months.

**Cleveland: **The case is on hold, awaiting the Cincinnati decision.

**Gary: **The case was dismissed by a trial court and is now on appeal. Indiana is one of 27 states that have passed laws prohibiting frivolous suits against the firearms industry. None of these laws, however, is retroactive.

Miami-Dade: The 3rd District Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court's dismissal of the Miami-Dade suit. However, the plaintiff has filed a petition directly with the Florida Supreme Court asking it to review the decision.

**Michigan: **Muddled, and on appeal.

New Jersey: Suits have been brought by the city of Camden, Camden County, and Newark. None has been decided; all are awaiting the outcome of the Philadelphia suit.

**New Orleans: **This one is dead, the Louisiana Supreme Court having noted that municipalities' attempting to regulate the firearms industry would result in haphazard and inconsistent rules that would threaten public safety. Laissez les bon temps rouler.

New York: Suits have been filed by the city and state. The first is in its early stages; the second has been dismissed by a state court but has been appealed.

**Philadelphia: **Initially dismissed, the case is on appeal before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

St. Louis: The case has bounced between federal and state courts. It is now in the latter, with a motion for dismissal by the defendants pending.

**Washington, D.C.: **Muddled. And they still haven't found Chandra Levy.

Wilmington: The judge has ordered that before the city can require the gunmakers to answer any discovery, it must provide evidence that it has sustained damages.

As far as the nonmunicipal suits go, they are either on appeal, in discovery, or stalled. This is not good neews for anti-gunners. What is not good news for gunmakers is the amount of money they have to spend defending themselves. It has cost one manufacturer $1 million a month to defend against a suit that should never have been brought.