Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

City Takes Gun Manufacturers to Court

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

City Takes Gun Manufacturers to Court

Article excerpt

In a case that may serve as a model for litigation by U.S. cities, the city of New Orleans is suing gun manufacturers for failing to incorporate safety features to prevent their guns from being fired by unauthorized people, including curious youngsters, suicidal teens, and criminals.

The lawsuit, filed in Louisiana state court, seeks to recover millions of dollars in punitive damages that have gone toward police protection, emergency services, police pensions, medical care and lost tax revenue related to handgun violence.

What makes this lawsuit novel is that it's being brought by a city, rather than a person who has been the victim of handgun violence. This theory is the same one that has been repeatedly successful against cigarette makers. In the tobacco cases, 41 states have sued to recover the medical costs of treating smokers with tobacco-related illnesses. The New Orleans lawsuit is essentially a product liability claim asserting that gun-makers sell goods with an "unreasonably dangerous" design.

The city's lawsuit was brought against 15 of the world's leading gun manufacturers, five local pawn shops and three firearms trade associations. It accuses them of failing to produce child-proof, "personalized" weapons that could arguably prevent thousands of suicides, homicides and accidental deaths. Mayor Morial of New Orleans said gun makers have long known how to make weapons that can be fired only by owners. Examples of "smart-gun" technology include personalized gun locks, radio frequency systems to block unauthorized users and devices that show when a gun's firing chamber contains a bullet. …

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