Judge Allows N.Y. City’s Suit Against Gun Industry to Proceed

December 5, 2005

Federal District Court Judge Jack Weinstein on Dec. 2 ruled that New York City’s landmark lawsuit against the gun industry can proceed, despite a federal law that limits the legal liability of gun manufacturers and sellers.

After hearing arguments from attorneys representing the city, the gun industry and the U.S. Department of Justice, Judge Weinstein ruled that the city’s case fits within an exception in the new statute for cases involving knowing violations of state or federal law.

New York City has charged gun manufacturers and sellers with engaging in conduct that violates New York State’s statute against creating a public nuisance.

The new federal legal shield law was signed into law by President Bush on October 26, 2005. On that same day, a motion to dismiss the pending New York City lawsuit was filed on behalf of the 13 manufacturers and twenty-seven distributors who are defendants in the suit.

“This is a great victory for the citizens of New York City,” said Dennis Henigan, director of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project. “The gun industry has long sought to avoid accountability for supplying the highly-profitable underground market. Instead, it will now face the harsh light of justice.”

Lawyers from the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project are co-counsel for New York City in the case.

The suit originally was filed in June 2000, during the administration of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and has been prosecuted by the Bloomberg Administration. The suit charges the defendants with contributing to a public nuisance by allegedly selling guns through a relatively small number of retail dealers who the defendants know or should know are supplying gun traffickers.

The suit seeks no money damages, but only a court order requiring the gun industry to take action against the dealers who are aiding gun trafficking.

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