Anti-Gun Spin begins afer CA Case Settled
by Gun Week staff
Anti-gunners are crowing about an Aug. 20 out-of-court settlement between five gun dealers and distributors, and a dozen California cities that had sued the gun industry, while an industry spokesman downplayed the gloating as unadulterated spin.
The anti-gun spin, however, is likely to be used on Capitol Hill when Congress returns to work in September in an attempt to torpedo S-659, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that would shield the firearms industry from just the kind of frivolous lawsuits brought by the California communities and some 20 other localities across the country. So far, none of these suits has been successful and many high-profile municipal actions have been dismissed in several state and federal courts. The US House has already approved the bill and President Bush has said he would sign it if it reaches his desk.
The California agreement announced by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herreras office on Aug. 21 was approved by the San Diego County Superior Court judge who had been assigned the consolidated case.
Associated Press quoted Dennis Henigan, director of the Legal Action Project at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, insisting that the agreement has a number of implications and makes it very clear that there are additional, significant steps that gun sellers could undertake to help prevent the flow of guns into the illegal market.
The Brady Center is touting this agreement as a first for gun distributors and retailers who had been hit with lawsuits over their business practices.
But Chuck Michel, spokesman and attorney for the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA), sees it another way. Theyve spent several million bucks, and they got back $70,000, he said of the 12 plaintiffs. Thats the kind of math that got us in trouble in Sacramento.
The litigation that we filed has resulted in significant reforms. And I think that people should consider that when theyre considering a vote on a prospective piece of legislation that would grant the industry widespread immunity, Herrera said. But proponents of the bill say no significance should be read into the deal, beyond five companies extracting themselves from a lawsuit.
Yet Lawrence G. Keane, vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told Gun Week, This so-called settlement . . . is nothing more than unadulterated spin to deflect attention from the complete waste of taxpayer money in the lawsuit against the industry.
Weeks ago, the court had thrown the case out against the firearms industry defendants, leaving only Trader Sports of San Leandro, Andrews Sporting Goods, MKS Supply and Southern Ohio Gun Distributors, both based in Ohio, and South Carolina-based Ellett Brothers, another distributor, as defendants. Andrews operates the Turners Outdoorsman chain in southern California.
Judge Vincent P. DiFiglia had earlier dismissed the suit against the industry, but an appeal is pending.
Under the agreement, Southern Ohio Gun will pay $50,000 in legal expenses for the plaintiffs. Trader Sports will no longer sell guns at gun shows and will train employees to detect straw man purchases and stop them. Southern Ohio Gun will also sell firearms only to storefront retailers in California and neighboring states.
The so-called ground-breaking settlement, Keane contended, is nothing more than an agreement by these defendants to continue obeying the law, and continue to engage in their ongoing business practices. They are not agreeing to do anything new and different.
Keane asserted that the Brady Center was being highly misleading in suggesting that they are making industry do more than the law requires.
The fact is, he insisted, members of industry have always done more than is required by law.
Keane dismissed the possibility that this settlement will encourage other lawsuits. Keane seemed confident that industry lawsuits will fail, and he pointed to a solid string of defeats in various state and federal courts.
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