Lawyers for the state of New York, as well as the various cities and counties nationwide, that are suing the gun industry say their legal assaults will continue despite a series of setbacks in recent court cases.
Of the 32 suits filed by New York and several cities and counties between October 1998 and June 2000, so far nine have been dismissed by the courts, including those brought by some of the biggest players — New York state, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cincinnati, Bridgeport, Conn., and Miami-Dade County.
In the most recent dismissal on Aug. 10, a New York state judge ruled the state’s Attorney General Eliot Spitzer had no cause to sue the industry because his complaint failed to link legally manufactured and distributed guns to the “public nuisance” alleged in his suit, Court TV reported last month.
The dismissals are good news for the industry.
“There hasn’t been a new case filed in 14 months. Other cities are concluding that these lawsuits are not viable and a waste of taxpayer money,” said Lawrence Keane, vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association and defendant in many of the suits.
“These cases are failing because they are an improper attempt to regulate a legitimate, responsible industry through litigation. It is not the role of the judiciary to act as legislatures,” he told Court TV.
What’s worse, Keane said, is the difference in media coverage from when the suits were filed to when they were dismissed.
For instance, few national media organizations or major newspapers took notice when New York’s case was dismissed. However, Keane said, the ruling was important because it furthers a trend of favorable decisions for the gun industry.
“You hear nothing about them when they’re dismissed … I find it absolutely stunning that a state attorney general sues an entire industry, has his case thrown out of court and there’s not a single line of coverage in the major media,” Keane said, according to Court TV.
The pro-gun lobby fighting the suits shouldn’t declare victory yet, say suit proponents, because over half of them — including actions brought by Boston, Atlanta and a dozen California communities — have either survived motions to dismiss, await hearings or are in the discovery phase.
The first case is expected to reach trial, either in Massachusetts or California, sometime next year, Court TV said.
Also, supporters of the lawsuits warned that despite the early victories, the war is far from over.
Dennis Henigan, director of the Legal Action Project at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, believes “any industry celebration of their legal fortunes would be quite premature.”
“Even the cases that have been dismissed, the story has not been finally written. There are appeals,” he told Court TV.
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