Federal Judge Dismisses NAACP Lawsuit
by Dave Workman
A federal judge in Brooklyn, NY, tossed out the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) lawsuit against gun manufacturers in a stunning blow to anti-gunners, ruling that the civil rights group had failed to prove that African Americans suffered harm from gun violence that is different in kind from that suffered by other persons in New York.
The ruling was handed down by federal District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein nearly two months after a 12-member advisory jury had recommended that gunmakers not be held liable for crimes committed with their products. Weinsteins ruling was immediately criticized by anti-gunners, but it brought quick approval from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), and the National Rifle Association (NRA).
SAF founder Alan Gottlieb called Weinsteins ruling significant.
His past judicial history, Gottlieb noted, particularly in the case of Hamilton v. AccuTek, has not been favorable to the firearms industry. This ruling just might serve as a signal to the anti-gun community that even a judge like Weinstein sees little merit in lawsuits against gunmakers.
Lawrence Keane, NSSF vice president and general counsel, concurred.
Manufacturers and distributors of firearms are not responsible for criminal misuse of their products, Keane said in a statement. The jury understood that these law-abiding companies had done absolutely nothing to cause a public nuisance in New York or harm the NAACP and its members. Judge Weinstein came to the same conclusion, but it was still another costly battle for the industry to defend its innocence.
Keane estimated that the six-week trial cost the industry $10 million, and insisted it should never have been allowed to move forward.
We should never have had to defend ourselves at the cost of $10 million, Keane stated. The NAACP should never have been allowed to proceed with this. It should have been dismissed right away.
The NRA expressed satisfaction with the ruling, noting, The gun industry is highly regulated and produces quality consumer products for law enforcement, the military and law-abiding Americans.
This is not only a victory for a lawful industry, but for the American legal system that these suits have attempted to exploit, said Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRAs Institute for Legislative Action.
But anti-gunners tried to put their own spin on the ruling. Dennis Henigan, director of the Brady Campaigns Legal Action Project, noted, Although we regret that Judge Weinstein did not grant the NAACP the relief it sought, the gun industry can take no consolation in this result. . . . The gun industry should not be proud that it was able to escape judgment in this case because its victims include us all.
Handgun-Free America Inc., another anti-gun organization, claimed on July 24 that Weinstein found clear evidence that the gun industry is guilty of careless practices.
In his 175-page ruling, Weinsteinconsidered by many observers to be personally anti-gundid manage to take some heavy shots at the firearms industry.
The industry, Weinstein wrote, as a whole has not adopted a responsible approach to limiting sales and supervising its retail outlets.
One of the key allegations in the NAACPs case was that firearms makers knew corrupt dealers sold guns to criminals and did not take appropriate action to eliminate or even appreciably reduce the public nuisance they individually and collectively have created. Weinstein also wrote that NAACP attorneys did establish clear and convincing evidence that retailers are guilty of being careless.
The NAACP, Weinstein contended, proved that its members did suffer relatively more harm from the nuisance created by the defendants through illegal availability of guns in New York. . . . It failed, however, to show that its harm was different in kind from that suffered by other persons in New York.
Henigan tried to capitalize on Weinsteins remarks, arguing that, There can no longer be any doubt that the gun industry ensures the continued supply of a robust underground gun market. . . . Gun makers know their dealers fuel the illegal market and have made a deliberate decision to supply corrupt dealers to profit from guns headed to the streets.
Even with the weight of Judge Weinsteins evident prejudices against the gun industry, SAFs Gottlieb observed, he still dismissed the lawsuit. The message to those who would consider similar legal actions is that their arguments cannot even prevail in the courtroom of an anti-gun judge.
Gottlieb and Keane both suggested that this latest defeat for anti-gunners should serve as a strong hint that such lawsuits should stop cluttering the courts.
It is time, Gottlieb said, that these types of lawsuits disappear from the legal landscape. Whether that is done through legislation or simple common sense, it clearly appears that the campaign to push these frivolous, but costly lawsuits has run its course, and the legal arguments against a law-abiding, highly-regulated industry have run out of steam.
Keane pointed to federal legislation that would outlaw such legal actions as a remedy.
The unfair abuse of our legal system, to burden innocent people and law-abiding companies with tremendous costs to defend their innocence, points to the reason legislation now awaiting Senate action must be passed, Keane said. Federal law needs to be reformed so this abuse of our courts will come to an end and bipartisan support for S. 659, The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, is the vehicle for that reform.
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