Gun Group Calls Illinois Court Ruling 'Political Cronyism'

July 7, 2008 - 8:28 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) Wednesday called a state appellate court ruling against firearms manufacturers a "sweetheart New Year's gift" for Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

The three-judge Illinois Appellate Court ruled that the families of slain Chicago police officer Michael Ceriale and the relatives of two others killed in gun violence could file public nuisance lawsuits against firearms manufacturers and their distributors.

The ruling said the families were free to sue manufacturers and distributors of the guns used in the crimes, but barred them from suing other gun makers as a public nuisance.

Ceriale was shot in 1988 during a late-night drug stakeout outside of a Chicago public housing project. He died a week later.

Jenny Hoyle, a spokesperson for the city of Chicago's legal department thinks the ruling is a "good sign" for the city.

ISRA, however, says the decision will be used to "jump start" what it called "Daley's stalled attempt to ban civilian firearm ownership."

The association said Appellate Court Judge William Cousins, who wrote the ruling, showed his political allegiance to Daley by ruling against the firearms manufacturers.

"Judge Cousins is obviously blinded by his political allegiance to Mayor Daley. If we extend Judge Cousins' logic to other lawful products, we see just how cockeyed his ruling is," said ISRA President Richard Pearson.

Hoyle denied the ruling was motivated by any political allegiance.

"We (city of Chicago) argue cases before the (Illinois) appellate court all the time. We win some. We lose some. So, I don't see that there is any connection here and I think it's a way of trying to blind people to the real issues, which have to do with the intentional acts of the gun industry," said Hoyle in an interview with CNSNews.com.

Hoyle added that, "this was a decision written by a three-judge panel. The decision was written by Judge Cousins, but, there were two other judges who also concurred."

According to Pearson, Cousins' ruling could endanger the manufacturers of other products designed for innocent purposes.

"For example, manufacturers of hypodermic syringes must know that their products will be used to inject illegal drugs. Marketers of prepaid phone cards must know that their products will be used by cheating husbands to make untraceable calls to their girlfriends," Pearson said.

The manufacturers named as defendants in the suit are Bryco Arms, Browning Arms Company and Smith and Wesson. Two Illinois gun shops were named as defendants as well. Attorneys for the firearms manufacturers said they would appeal the ruling to the Illinois state supreme court.

"We're confident that the continuing appeals process will separate political opportunism from the rule of law," Pearson said.

The National Rifle Association had no comment on the ruling, according to spokesperson Kelly Whitley. The NRA referred calls to the National Shooting Sports Federation.

NSSF is "confused" about the ruling, according to its president Bob Delfay.

"This decision, we found, is very confusing and very surprising. The judge stated that he thought it was reasonable for the manufacturers of these firearms to foresee that they might be used in a crime and therefore they should be held responsible," said Delfay in an interview with CNSNews.com.

"But it's just as reasonable, is it not, to foresee that an automobile or a match or a gallon of gasoline might be used illegally. But no one suggests that the manufacturers or producers of those products be held responsible when they are used illegally," Delfay said. "It just doesn't make sense."

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence did not return phone calls seeking comment.