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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 
large-volume sales. 

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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