Friday, July 16, 1999

Gun makers ask city suit dismissal

Move is 'standard,' Chesley says

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Firearms manufacturers and three trade groups Thursday asked a Hamilton County judge to throw out Cincinnati's suit to recover costs of gun-related violence.

        Their motion to dismiss was filed by Bruce M. Allman, Robert A. McMahon and other defense attorneys.

        “That's standard operating procedure,” said Stanley M. Chesley, lead attorney in the city suit. “That's what they're doing in all of the other cities.”

        Any decision by Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman is probably months away, and it's too soon for similar motions to have worked their way through distant courts.

        Thursday's defense motion says Ohio municipalities “are neither empowered to regulate or abate conduct outside their territorial limits nor to seek recovery of the cost of providing government services within those boundaries.”

        Yet Cincinnati's suit “seeks to do both of these impermissible things.” On those grounds alone, the industry says, Cincinnati's complaint should be dismissed.

        Mr. Allman, Mr. McMahon and their colleagues further argue that none of the city's complaints involves grounds for action under Ohio law and the city has no standing to bring the suit, because it is neither an attorney general nor a consumer.

        Equally flawed, they say, are product-liability arguments and claims of deceptive advertising.

        Finally, the defense motion notes that Cincinnati restricts and approves various kinds of firearms, but says “the city cannot have it both ways: It cannot both legislatively authorize and regulate the commercial distributions of firearms ... and judicially seek to abate (and punish) that same conduct.”

        When the suit was filed in April, Cincinnati joined a parade of U.S. cities targeting those who make and sell guns.

        Cincinnati's complaint, which names 16 gun makers and the trade associations, says:

        • Handgun manufacturers, through their marketing and advertising, “massively distribute (guns) in a manner that makes them readily available for illegal use” in Cincinnati.

        • Gun makers can make guns safer by making pistols that only authorized users could fire.

        • Manufacturers deceive the public about the safety of guns and promote the “fallacy that the use of guns will increase home safety and security.”

        • Gun makers promote an illegal gun market “which arms juveniles, convicted felons and other unauthorized or illegal users with lethal weapons.”

        Cincinnati wants Judge Ruehlman to order the gun industry to eliminate or substantially reduce the illegal gun market, provide adequate warnings about the risks of handguns, and pay for studies and advertising campaigns focused on handgun safety.


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