Supreme Court Won’t Hear NYC Lawsuits Against Gun Industry
March 9, 2009 - 1:12 PMThe Supreme Court has turned away pleas by New York City and gun violence victims to hold the firearms industry responsible for selling guns that could end up in illegal markets.
The justices' decision Monday ends lawsuits first filed in 2000. Federal appeals courts in New York and Washington threw out the complaints after Congress passed a law in 2005 giving the gun industry broad immunity against such lawsuits.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city was examining whether it had other legal options. "It was one tool. It was one part of our strategy to fight against illegal guns," he said.
The city's lawsuit asked for no monetary damages. It had sought a court order for gun makers to more closely monitor those dealers who frequently sell guns later used to commit crimes.
But the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal law provides the gun industry with broad immunity from lawsuits brought by crime victims and violence-plagued cities. The Supreme Court refused to reconsider that decision.
The lawsuit was first brought in June 2000 while Rudy Giuliani was New York mayor. It was delayed due to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and because of similar litigation in the state courts.
The city refiled the lawsuit in January 2004, saying manufacturers let handguns reach illegal markets at gun shows in which non-licensed people can sell to other private citizens; through private sales in which background checks are not required; by oversupplying markets where gun regulations are lax, and by having poor overall security.
The city said a state nuisance law makes it a crime to knowingly or recklessly create a condition endangering the safety or health of a considerable number of people. But the appeals court said New York's law does not qualify as an exception to federal law. It agreed with U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, signed by President George W. Bush in 2005, is constitutional.
The cases are City of New York v. Beretta, 08-530, and Lawson v. Beretta, 08-545.
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