Skip to comments.California: Bulk of firearms lawsuit set aside. Cities fail to make their case
Posted on 03/08/2003 9:11:29 AM PST by John Jorsett
A San Diego judge gutted a sweeping lawsuit against the firearms industry yesterday, ruling that several California cities involved in the action couldn't prove the nation's gun makers are to blame for weapons getting into the hands of criminals.
The ruling by Superior Court Judge Vincent Di Figlia came a month before the lawsuit was to have come to trial. It would have been the first of its kind to make it to trial.
The judge released more than 20 of the nation's leading gun manufacturers from the suit, saying there was no evidence that they could be blamed for the black market for guns in California.
Even if such evidence existed, the judge said, policing of the industry is a job better left to lawmakers and agents responsible for enforcing existing firearms laws.
The suit was filed in 1999 by a dozen cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, and counties. It accused gun makers and distributors of allowing weapons to fall into the hands of criminals through lax sales practices.
Among other things, the cities wanted the judge to make the gun industry responsible for cracking down on rogue dealers who have track records of allowing weapons to slip into the black market.
An executive in the firearms industry, Lawrence Keane, said Di Figlia's ruling "represents vindication of a responsible industry."
Keane, who represents the National Shooting Sports Foundation in Connecticut, said gun-control activists are trying "to blame us for the acts of criminals and to demonize our products, which are used safely and responsibly by millions of Americans."
Lawyers representing the plaintiffs said the decision would be appealed.
The plaintiffs accuse gun makers and distributors of creating a public nuisance and engaging in unfair business practices in violation of state laws.
"Obviously, we're disappointed, but certainly we feel there are strong grounds for appeal," said Dennis Henigan of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C.
The organization is providing legal assistance to the plaintiffs.
The cities were suing more than 20 gun manufacturers, including Glock, Beretta U.S.A., Browning Arms Co., Smith & Wesson, Sturm, Ruger & Co. and Taurus International Manufacturing. All were dismissed from the suit yesterday.
The judge also released two trade associations from the suit.
However, he refused to release two California retailers, ruling that the cities had produced enough evidence of misconduct to warrant a trial. The retailers are Trader Sports of the San Francisco Bay Area and Andrews Sporting Goods, which has a dozen outlets in Southern California.
The judge cited an affidavit by a former agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who said a disproportionate number of guns involved in crimes could be traced to those two retailers.
Lawyers for the cities have said the lucrative black market for guns is the result of distributors who engage in such practices as straw sales, where someone buys a gun for someone who isn't legally permitted to possess one.
Among other things, the cities contend many criminals are able to buy weapons at traveling gun shows.
Lawyers for the two retailers dispute the allegations and cite a high sales volume as a possible reason guns used by criminals are traced to the retailers.
The judge refused to dismiss a claim by the cities against three out-of-state gun distributors that the cities accuse of illegally selling certain types of guns, including banned assault weapons, to retailers in California.
The judge said there is enough evidence of misconduct to warrant a trial on that issue, as well.
By dismissing the bulk of the lawsuit, Di Figlia was following the lead of many other jurisdictions nationwide.
Similar cases in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Miami-Dade County have been thrown out of court, too. The city of Boston dropped its suit voluntarily.
Lawsuits by other cities Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and New York City are among them are pending and haven't made it to trial.
In addition to San Francisco and Los Angeles, the plaintiffs in California included Oakland, Sacramento, West Hollywood, East Palo Alto and other California city and county governments. The case was consolidated in San Diego Superior Court by the state Judicial Council.
San Diego wasn't a participant, however. A spokeswoman for City Attorney Casey Gwinn said the city wasn't invited to participate.
The ruling yesterday came after several hours of oral argument.
The plaintiffs had been optimistic the case would make it to trial because of an affidavit filed last month by Robert A. Ricker, a former chief lobbyist and executive director of the American Shooting Sports Council.
In the affidavit, Ricker accused the industry of ignoring the problem of rogue dealers and deliberately avoiding any remedial action for fear of liability.
Yesterday, one of the lead lawyers for the plaintiffs, Michael Dowd, said the firearms industry has "intentionally decided to stick its head in the sand" on the subject of illegal gun purchases."
"Fix it now before the next person in California gets hurt," Dowd said during the hearing.
James Vogt, a lead lawyer for the firearms industry, said the cities brought the lawsuit despite the absence of any hard evidence of misconduct by gun makers. The lawsuit, he said, was "gun-control politics, pure and simple."
Each and every one of them has been dismissed over the last several years.
http://thomas.loc.gov/ (sorry--I have never been able to make a link that works) and put HR 1036 in the search
The first thing that will stike you is ALL the co-sponsors (243 original co-sponsors).
Next, read the text!
Ask yourself the same question about the tobacco lawuits.
Eventually the plaintiffs find a nincompoop jury that accepts the outrageous, which then turns into judicial precedent. That turns into new law made by the court. That turns into more fat fees for lawyers and more court time in the courts, which employ judges. And so, the cycle goes around and around!
Of course, the rest of use lose. But, hey! It's all about money and political agendas, not about right, wrong or Constitutional Law.
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