Center to Prevent Handgun Violence
Warning to Industry
U.S. Newswire 15 Jul 2000
|WASHINGTON, July 11 /U.S. Newswire/ As the Republican National
Convention approaches, the Legal Action Project of the Center to
Prevent Handgun Violence has served notice to the gun industry that
the industry's high hopes of a George W. Bush presidency are in
vain. The Legal Action Project is stepping up its efforts to
represent gun violence victims in lawsuits against the industry.
Since 1989, the Legal Action Project has pioneered innovative
theories of gun industry liability against gun manufacturers and
sellers in an attempt to hold the gun industry accountable for
dangerous and irresponsible practices. The Legal Action Project's
legal theories have been used in the past to bring claims on behalf
of individual victims of gun violence and are now being used by the
cities and counties suing the gun industry. The Center represents
over two dozen of the cities and counties that have filed suits
against the industry.
By intensifying its pro bono work for victims, the Center is
sending a message to gun manufacturers and dealers that relying on
the possibility that Governor George W. Bush will be elected
President of the United States will not insulate the industry from
legal accountability for its misconduct. The gun industry recently
broke off settlement talks with the Department of Housing and Urban
Development over threatened public housing authority lawsuits in
the hopes that a George W. Bush presidency will result in federal
legislation to prohibit municipal lawsuits. As Governor, Bush
signed legislation banning local government lawsuits against the
gun industry in Texas last year.
"The gun industry seems to be forgetting that even if Bush is
elected President and even if he manages to push legislation
shielding the gun industry from municipal lawsuits through the new
Congress, victims of gun violence still can and will file private
lawsuits against the gun industry," said Dennis Henigan, Director
of the Legal Action Project. "Innocent victims of gun industry
misconduct will continue to assert their legal rights and we are
ready to help them."
On June 29, the Center announced a significant new lawsuit
brought on behalf of victims of a series of racially-motivated
shootings on July 4 weekend of last year. African-American, Asian
American and Jewish victims of violent white supremacist Benjamin
Nathaniel Smith brought suit in Chicago against the gun trafficker,
gun dealer and gun manufacturers whose conduct allowed Smith easy
access to handguns in the illegal market. The defendant dealer,
Old Prairie Trading Post, sold over sixty handguns over a two-year
period to trafficker Donald Feissinger, who then sold two handguns
-- one a Bryco Arms .380, the other a .22 caliber Ruger, to Smith.
Smith had tried to buy a gun from a legitimate dealer, but was
turned away because a background check revealed he was under a
domestic restraining order. The suit charges that Old Prairie
knew, or should have known, that it was dealing with a gun
trafficker who was buying such a large volume of handguns to sell
them into the illegal market. The suit also names Bryco Arms and
Sturm, Ruger, charging that the gun makers failed to set standards
for the retail sale of their firearms that would prevent such
In May, the Center also brought suit in Michigan for shooting
victim Ronald Rissman, who was shot by a mentally disturbed
individual in June of last year. The suit was brought against gun
dealer Target Sports, Inc., which sold a handgun to the shooter
even thought the store had been warned of his mental instability.
Finally, the California Court of Appeals recently opened the
door to a possible new trial in Dix v. Beretta, the first case ever
brought against a gun maker for failure to "personalize" guns to
prevent their use by children and other unauthorized users. Center
lawyers had filed this case against gun manufacturer Beretta for
the parents of a teenage boy who was accidentally killed by his
friend with a gun the friend thought was unloaded. A jury had
ruled 9-3 against the parents, but the appeals court found there
was reason to believe that at least one of the jurors was biased in
favor of Beretta. A new trial may be ordered in the case.
"These cases demonstrate our determination to hold the gun
industry accountable to innocent victims for its choices that
increase the risk of violence," said Mr. Henigan. "The gun
industry may be counting on George W. Bush and a future pro-gun
Congress to rescue it from the city cases, but the industry will
always be vulnerable to courageous victims willing to assert their
rights. Smith & Wesson finally concluded that the only way to
truly protect itself from liability for irresponsible conduct is to
act responsibly. Eventually, that simple truth will dawn on the
rest of the gun industry as well."
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