By Robert M. Hausman
Second City Suit Against Industry Dismissed
The city of Bridgeport, Connecticut’s lawsuit against the firearms industry, part of the recent wave of suits by municipalities, has been thrown out of court. The decision follows the October 1999 dismissal of a similar suit brought by the city of Cincinnati, Ohio. Legal experts are predicting a growing trend against efforts by politicians to hold legitimate industry liable for the criminal actions of third parties.
The National Rifle Association hailed the Connecticut Superior Court decision. The ruling follows last October’s ruling to dismiss with prejudice a similar suit filed by the municipality of Cincinnati.
“All those mayors who jumped on the lawsuit bandwagon in order to get their names in the papers ought to buckle their seatbelts, because the bandwagon is starting to come to a screeching, judicial halt,” said James J. Baker, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “Once again, just as in the Cincinnati case, the court has employed sound judgment and common sense. These reckless lawsuits have no place in our judicial system.”
In his written opinion, Judge Robert McWeeny dismissed the case and ruled that Bridgeport and other cities “…lack any statutory authorization to initiate such claims” of liability against the firearms industry.
Baker applauded the decision, noting a December 12, 1999 Houston (TX) Chronicle report of a Tarrance Group poll finding 84% of Americans feel those who illegally misuse firearms should be held responsible, while only 5% believe manufacturers or retailers should be held responsible for the criminal misuse of firearms.
“The idea of holding a lawful industry responsible for the criminal acts of third parties flies in the face of common sense and our system of jurisprudence,” Baker said. “Americans want to see the laws already on the books enforced to hold armed criminals directly responsible for their actions. They don’t support these suits, nor the greedy lawyers and mayors behind them.”
During the past year, fourteen states have adopted legislation to prevent municipalities from filing similar lawsuits against the firearms industry. Baker predicted more states would adopt such measures in coming months.
Clinton Administration To Sue
But the Clinton Administration is not getting the message. In an action intended to force changes in the way firearms are manufactured and marketed, but with no foundation in case law, The Clinton Administration has announced it is preparing to file a class action lawsuit on behalf of the nation’s 3,191 public housing authorities. The plaintiffs want gunmakers to distribute only to dealers who won’t sell at gun shows, to require dealers to sell only one-gun-a-month to each buyer, to cut off those dealers who sell a disproportionate number of guns later linked to crimes, and to make the industry develop “smart” guns that only authorized users (such as the gun’s owner) can operate.
The public housing authorities spend about $1 billion a year trying to keep their 3. million residents safe from gun violence, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Author’s Note: Much of the violence, however, is committed by the authorities’ own residents. The department hasn’t yet decided how much to ask for in damages. The attack on the gunmakers is patterned closely on the tobacco campaign, and even involves some of the same lawyers.
Some manufacturers, such as Glock, Inc., were quoted as saying they would consider meeting with the Clinton Administration, while others, such as Sturm, Ruger & Co., indicated they plan to fight the matter out in court.
The problem with this latest ploy from the Clinton Administration is that it has no legal standing. Its requirement that firearms manufacturers build only “smart” guns, those only owners can fire, cannot be done as a reliable “smart” technology has never been developed. The idea of cutting off the source of supply of merchandise to legitimate licensed dealers who sell at gun shows would constitute a violation of federal restraint-of-trade regulations.
Using the court system to require dealers to sell only one-gun-a-month to each buyer is an abuse of the role of the courts. The courts do not exist to create laws, and lawsuits attempting to impose gun control through the judicial system have all been soundly rejected by the courts in the past.
Requiring wholesalers to refuse to supply firearms to otherwise legitimate dealers who sell a disproportionate number of firearms later linked to crimes cannot be done as the Dealers involved have done nothing wrong and thus committed no crime. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms has publicly stated the number of firearm trace requests can be influenced by many factors, including the store’s location. Stores in predominately African-American and often urban low income areas tend to sell more guns that are later linked to crime. Does this mean the federal government intends to prohibit the sale of firearms to African-Americans?
The final demand, change gun industry advertising so it appeals less to criminals is rather curious. This author, an avid reader of firearms publications for more years than he cares to recount, has never seen a gun advertisement specifically directed to criminals. This proposal also smacks of a violation of the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights guarantee of freedom of speech.
ATF NICS Warning
The industry’s regulator, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) advises some retailers are not complying with the recordkeeping requirements mandated by the gun Control Act of 1968 by destroying Form 4473 in situations where a NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) check has been initiated, but the transfer of the firearm is not completed. This practice is in violation of the Gun Control Act, the agency warns.
In general, regulations require licensees to retain each Form 4473 for a period of not less than 20 years after the date of sale or disposition. However, if a NICS check has been initiated, but the transfer of the firearm was not completed, the licensee must record any state or NICS transaction number on the Form 4473, and retain the form for a period of not less than 5 years from the date of the NICS inquiry.
This requirement includes denied transactions, as well as transactions that are approved by NICS, but where the firearm was never transferred to the prospective purchaser.
Forms 4473 for proposed transfers that were not completed should be retained in the licensee’s records separate from the Forms 4473 for completed transactions and should be organized alphabetically (by the name of the transferee) or chronologically (by the date of the transferee’s certification).
Gun Buyer Denials
From January 1, 1998 through November 29, 1998, approximately 70,000 rejections occurred among 2,384,000 NICS/state applications to acquire a firearm. About 63% of the rejections were for a prior felony conviction or a current felony indictment. Domestic violence misdemeanor convictions accounted for 10% of the rejections, and domestic violence protection orders caused 3% of the rejections.
Among the 18 states reporting complete data for the first 11 months of 1998, Georgia had the highest rejection rate at 8.4% of 74,977 applications. Connecticut had the lowest rejection rate at just 0.6% of its 26,981 applications. From March 1994 to November 1998, there have been 12,740,000 background checks with a 2.4% rejection rate, according to ATF.
Sturm, Ruger & Co., the nation’s largest overall producer of firearms, has reported second quarter net sales of $63 million compared to $60 million in the second quarter of 1998. Net income for the quarter ended June 30, 1999 totaled $7.5 million or 28 cents per share versus $8.4 million or 31 cents per share in the comparable quarter of 1998.
For the six months ended June 30, 1999, net sales were $125.9 million and net income was $15.9 million or 59 cents per share. For the corresponding period in 1998, net sales were $118.5 million and net income was $15.6 million or 58 cents per share.
Commenting on the quarter, Chairman William B. Ruger noted strong demand for firearms has continued. “Firearms sales, which increased by 23% during the first half of 1999, have shown improvement for five consecutive quarters. It is especially gratifying to note high demand for new products, like our Fiftieth Anniversary commemorative .22 caliber target pistol.
“Seven municipalities served the company with lawsuits during the quarter, alleging various theories which we believe to be ill-conceived and completely unfounded in both law and fact. The company intends to continue contesting such suits vigorously, and has filed motions to dismiss several of these cases. Suing the very companies providing the cities with quality firearms used by law enforcement needlessly diverts valuable resources away from fighting criminals into the pockets of trial lawyers, and is simply wrong,” Ruger concluded.
Sturm, Ruger was founded in 1949. Since 1950, it has never failed to show an annual profit and has never required financing from outside sources.
Hodgdon Powder Co. (Dept. SAR, P.O. Box 2932, Shawnee Mission, KS 66201) introduces the second version of the Blast Electronic Manual. It is loaded with features, including: Updated information from Hodgdon’s #27 Data Manual for rifle and pistol; Hodgdon, Alliant, IMR and Winchester powder data are includded with an in-depth selection of bullet weights; shotshell data for all gauges including bushing charts for the most popular loading presses; and, a Barnes external ballistic program including printable ballistic tables and loading data.
QuickLOAD and QuickTARGET for Windows are two new software programs for handloaders and commercial reloaders from U.S. International Defence Technologies, L.L.C. (Dept SAR, 5005 Chapman Highway, Knoxville, TN 37920). QuickLOAD is a computer program allowing the user to calculate loading data and the user can adjust for specific barrel length, rate of twist, chamber dimensions and case volumes. The QuickTARGET program can calculate graphs or simulate recoil influences for a specific rifle or pistol, canting influences, wind or sight adjustments, and the effect of atmospheric conditions.
Sierra Bullets (Dept. SAR, P.O. Box 818, Sedalia, MO 65301) introduces the INFINITY exterior ballistics computer software offering multiple trajectory charts and graphics. The bullet library includes many major bullet manufacturers as well as ammunition companies and allows for addition of new and custom bullets.
Shooters of the .50 Browning Machine Gun cartridge can begin handloading the big cartridge without searching for hard-to-find loading tools individually with the new .50 BMG Pack from RCBS (Dept. SAR, 605 Oro Dam Blvd., Oroville, CA 95965). The Pack includes the press, dies, and accessory items needed, all in one box. It not only offers convenience, but the shooter saves money over buying the parts separately.
The furnished press is the powerful AmmoMaster single stage rigged for 1 1/2 inch dies. It has a massive solid steel ram and plenty of height for the big .50. Also included is a set of RCBS .50 BMG reloading dies, including both full-length sizer and seater. Other parts of the kit are a shell holder, ram priming unit, and a trim die.
Michaels of Oregon (Dept. SAR, P.O. Box 1690, Oregon City, OR 97045) has added a new gloss finish to its Sidekick Professional Mirage nylon duty gear. Mirage Gloss duty gear is designed to provide the formal appearance preferred by many state patrols and police departments, yet deliver long-term durability and high performance in both street and dress situations.
Mirage Gloss is the latest Sidekick Professional pattern in Nytek, a non-woven material made of nylon microfibers 1,000 times finer than silk. It is extremely strong and abrasion resistant, will not rot, mildew or fade, and requires virtually no maintenance. The new finish features a mirror-polished sheen providing a classy appearance to complement the material’s proven durability. A full selection of duty gear, including holsters, belts and accessories are available in the new finish.
Michael’s of Oregon has acquired the “World’s Fastest Gun Bore Cleaner” product line from National Tech labs, Inc. of Boise, Idaho. Under the agreement, Michael’s acquires the patents, manufacturing and marketing rights to the line of flexible bore cleaners. Manufacturing of the bore cleaner line will be at the Michael’s’ Oregon City, Oregon headquarters plant.
The product will have its name changed to the Bore Snake™, World’s Fastest Gun Bore Cleaner, and marketed under Michaels GunMate family of products. The product is a flexible cleaning tool combining all cleaning steps into one. It has built-in bore brushes and a woven cord with 160 times more floss than a typical cleaning patch. It is available in sizes to fit most firearms.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V3N6 (March 2000)|