The nation’s largest firearms industry group, joined by seven firearms companies, has filed a lawsuit against federal, state and local officials, alleging “an illegal conspiracy in restraint of trade and in violation of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.”
|Representatives of firearms manufacturers announcing lawsuit at the National Press Club.|
Named in the lawsuit — filed in federal court in Atlanta by the
National Shooting Sports Foundation — are Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and mayors and other officials representing 14 municipalities.
The firearms companies joining in the suit are Beretta U.S.A. Corp., Browning Arms, Inc., Colt’s Manufacturing, Inc., Glock, Inc., SIG Arms, Inc., Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc., and Taurus International Manufacturing, Inc.
“The lawsuit arises from a politically-motivated scheme in which these bureaucrats have sought to bully law enforcement professionals into buying handguns based not on the quality or safety of the product, but on capitulation by the manufacturer to a regulatory agenda concocted by these officials,” said Robert Defay, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation in a statement delivered to reporters yesterday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. “We are here to expose a plan that brazenly places political self-interest above police and citizen safety.”
Thirty cities and municipalities, along with HUD, have filed suit against the gun industry, claiming that the firearms gun makers manufacture have been largely responsible for thousands of deaths as well as millions of dollars in tax revenue spent to treat gunshot victims. The suits aim to collect monetary damages from gun makers and to force the industry to accept reforms that supposedly would reduce gun injuries and deaths.
Cuomo dismissed the lawsuit as “frivolous” and a “vain attempt to distract from (the) failure (of gun makers) to take responsibility for their share of the tragic problem of gun violence.”
After being pressured by more than two dozen lawsuits, Smith & Wesson agreed with the government — most fellow manufacturers say “caved in” — and accepted a new code of conduct, including mandatory safety locks and closer supervision of handgun sales, including those at gun shows. To reward Smith & Wesson for toeing the government’s line, some state and local officials want to give S&W an edge when purchasing weapons for police departments.
Speaking for seven major gun manufacturers who haven’t “given in,” Delfay said, “these local officials have tried everything from litigation to economic extortion” to compel national compliance over their notions “about gun design, ownership and distribution,” adding that the methodology being used by municipalities and states — then sanctioned by suits from federal agencies — “is wrong by any measure of law, ethics or fairness.”
“Our democratic process is being perverted, the power vested in our elected leaders is being ignored and the Constitution is being trampled upon by HUD Secretary Cuomo and other defendants who have formed an improper alliance with a band of lawyers to sue us into submission,” Delfay added.
Specifically, the lawsuit seeks to:
- Acknowledge that Cuomo’s efforts and those of other defendants to impose rules and regulations regarding the design and distribution of firearms exceed the limits of authority granted to their offices by Congress and by the U.S. Constitution.
- Prevent Cuomo and other defendants from further steps that violate the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986.
- Find that the preferential purchase scheme imposed by the defendants violates the Commerce Clause of Article I of the U.S. Constitution.
- Prevent state and local officials from taking actions that restrict interstate trade or foreign commerce.
Asserting that “anti-gun” agendas do not “excuse anti-democratic behavior,” Delfay said, “The people of the United States have placed the authority to regulate firearm design and distribution in the hands of Congress, not in the hands of a small contingent of self-chosen politicians and their attorneys.”
Delfay distributed letters of support from national police groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police and the
Law Enforcement Alliance of America, who reject the administration’s plan.
According to the Fraternal Order of Police, the primary concern of most law enforcement agencies when buying department-issued firearms is “officer safety, not adherence to a particular political philosophy.”
The Law Enforcement Alliance of America echoed FOPs concerns, saying, “Law enforcement officers should not be used as political pawns.”
Handgun Control, whose Center to Prevent Handgun Violence is handling many of the suits for the municipalities, charges the gun industry as a whole with designing unsafe guns, negligent distribution practices, and deceptive marketing and advertising of firearms.
But a new poll released last week by the Pew Research Center said most Americans are not interested in new gun laws, but instead want better enforcement of existing gun laws, a position first made popular by the
National Rifle Association’s president, Charlton Heston, and its executive director, Wayne LaPierre.
Released on the first anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., the poll said just 6 percent of respondents believed tough new gun laws would have prevented that shooting and others in recent years.
A separate Associated Press poll last week also found that a majority of Americans do not support new gun laws. In that poll, 42 percent supported stricter enforcement of current laws while just 33 percent said tougher gun laws were needed.
Early last year, as the current gun industry lawsuits loomed on the horizon, noted Yale University researcher John R. Lott
recommended the current strategy being adopted by NSSF and the gun makers.
Lott told WorldNetDaily that lawyers suing the industry would likely be successful “unless gun manufacturers and pro-gun groups band together” to fight them.
In a prophetic statement, Lott said, “My biggest fear is that so many cities will eventually join this lawsuit that it will be difficult financially for the gun makers to remain in business,” adding, “at some point they would all have to make an economic decision on whether or not it was feasible to continue fighting the suits.”
Last year, Beretta USA spokesman Jeff Ray told WorldNetDaily that his company planned a vigorous defense against the industry suits, a claim substantiated by the firm’s participation in the NSSF-led counter-suit.
“This is not about locks on guns or even gun safety,” Delfay told the assembled reporters yesterday at the National Press Club. “This is about [New York Attorney General] Eliot Spitzer telling a homeowner in Iowa what gun he or she can buy, from whom and how.”
White House spokesman Jake Siewert, who accompanied President Clinton yesterday on a trip to North Carolina, reacted to the industry counter-suit simply by saying, “We’ll see ’em in court.”
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