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Stop the War Against the Gun Industry By: Tanya Metaksa
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, April 16, 2002

THE LEGAL ASSAULT AGAINST THE FIREARMS INDUSTRY led by the gun ban lobby has been going on since 1998. Although the industry has been winning the battles, the costly war grinds on. Last October I wrote a FrontPageMagazine.com article titled, "The Wastefulness of the War on Guns," in which I noted, "of 30 suits brought against the industry, 18 have been decided at one level or another, and 17 have been fully or partially dismissed in favor of firearms manufacturers." Now, with more suits filed, the gun ban lobby is still losing badly.

Since the last day in December when an Illinois appeals court allowed public nuisance lawsuits against specific gun makers and sellers, rather than the entire industry, all frivolous lawsuits have been decided in favor of the firearms industry.

From Philadelphia to Atlanta and from California to Boston the courts are ruling against the plaintiffs who try and sue the industry on the grounds of negligent distribution. Robert Hartwig, chief economist for the Insurance Industry Institute, was quoted in Best’s Insurance News as saying that "the hand writing is on the wall here, the lawsuits are unlikely to be successful in the vast majority of jurisdictions."

In Philadelphia it was the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that ruled the city of brotherly love could not sue firearms manufacturers because "gun manufacturers are under no legal duty to protect citizens from the deliberate and unlawful use of their products."

The Georgia Court of Appeals was equally forceful when it overturned a lower court ruling in February by stating that it was the purview of the state to regulate firearms, not the city of Atlanta. Even a court in the liberal state of Maryland ruled that a gun maker could not be held liable when an East Baltimore toddler shot himself when he found his father’s handgun hiding under a mattress.

In March Chief Federal Judge Lewis Babcock dismissed a lawsuit filed by the family of one of the students killed at Columbine High School in 1999. According to the Rocky Mountain News, "Babcock found that gun show operator J.D. Tanner and two dealers who leased space from him, James R. Washington and Ronald F. Hartmann, 'owed no duty of care' to the shooting victims as a result of the legal sale of a shotgun."


Right on the heels of that Colorado decision came a decision in the case Buford Furrow, who killed a letter carrier and wounded five people at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in California. The mother of slain postal worker, Joseph S. Ileto, and the parents of three children wounded by Furrow had brought suit against Glock, Norinco, Bushmaster, Imbel, Maadi, and Davis Industries. According to the Los Angeles Times, the legal strategy of the plaintiffs was again to accuse "Glock and the other defendants of producing and distributing substantially more firearms than could possibly be bought by law-abiding customers." The suit even alleged that the firearms industry advertises with the illicit market – meaning criminals – in mind.

In dismissing the suit U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins wrote, "there was no way of foreseeing that this particular individual would obtain a Glock firearm and use it to injure these plaintiffs." Additionally she threw out the nuisance claim by ruling that it is not applicable to the manufacture and sale of products that are not defective.

Although the firearms industry success rate has increased with each court decision it was a surprise when the city of Boston on March 27 decided to drop its lawsuit against the 31 firearms companies. Citing increasing costs and the court’s requiring complete case history of crimes to be used against the firearms industry, Boston pulled the plug. Dennis Hennigan, the legal director of the gun ban lobby formerly known as Handgun Control, Inc, used the Boston news as an opportunity to announce yet another city initiating a lawsuit: Jersey City, New Jersey. Of course, Hennigan and his Brady bunch would be helping finance the case.

Yet, the cost of winning these court battles is high. The ultimate goal of the gun ban lobby is to bankrupt the firearms industry and put it out of business. That’s why the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the National Rifle Association are pushing hard to get S. 2037, a bill that would protect the firearm industry from politically motivated lawsuits, to a vote on the floor of the House of Representative. At the present time there are 215 co-sponsors. When 219 members co-sponsor the bill would likely be a voted on by the full House. Four more co-sponsors would help bring the battle between the gun banners and the firearms’ industry to a swift and honorable conclusion.

Tanya K. Metaksa is the former executive director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action. She is the author of Safe, Not Sorry a self-protection manual, published in 1997. She has appeared on numerous talk and interview shows such as "Crossfire," the "Today" show, "Nightline," "This Week with David Brinkley" and the "McNeil-Lehrer Hour," among others.

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