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Author Topic: Claims against gunmaker Glock dismissed  (Read 560 times)

Offline Big58cal

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Claims against gunmaker Glock dismissed
« on: May 13, 2009, 04:26:17 PM »
Claims against gunmaker Glock dismissed

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A federal appeals court dismissed damage claims against gun manufacturers Monday by the victims of a white supremacist's shooting rampage in the San Fernando Valley, saying a 2005 federal law backed by the firearms industry bars such lawsuits.

In a 2-1 ruling, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Congress had the case in mind when it passed the law. Lawmakers did not violate the rights of victims of the 1999 shootings by limiting their right to sue federally licensed gunmakers and dealers for criminals' actions, the court said.

The 2005 law protects federally licensed gun manufacturers and sellers from liability for criminals' shootings. Two of the congressional sponsors said during debate that one case they wanted to dismiss was a suit arising from Buford Furrow's August 1999 bloodbath.

Furrow, a mentally disturbed man with neo-Nazi affiliations, took at least seven guns into a Jewish center in Granada Hills and opened fire, wounding three children, a teenager and an adult. An hour later, he fatally shot Joseph Ileto, 39, a letter carrier, in nearby Chatsworth.

Furrow pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison. The suit was filed by Ileto's widow, Lilian, and by three of the wounded youths and another child at the center.

They claimed that the manufacturers deliberately made more guns than the legitimate market could support and sold them through channels that would reach a "secondary market" of private and under-the-table transactions.

The suit said Glock Inc., maker of the 9mm pistol allegedly used to shoot Ileto, sold many guns to police that were unsafe to civilians and ignored government warnings about high-risk distribution channels - in this case, from a police department in Washington state through several owners to an unlicensed trader, who sold it to Furrow.

The appeals court upheld a judge's dismissal order Monday, saying the federal law is constitutional and applies to the case.

Lawyers for the victims argued that the suit fit an exception in the 2005 law, which allows claims against a gun company that knowingly violated another state or federal weapons-related law. But the court majority, led by Judge Susan Graber, said the suit's allegations - that Glock and others had deliberately flooded the market with guns - were unrelated to any specific gun law.

Lawmakers were entitled to conclude that gunmakers were suffering financially from such cases and to "shift the economic burden ... from the firearms industry to the would-be plaintiffs," Graber said.

She said the law did not deprive victims of all rights and noted that Furrow's victims can still sue China North, which made one of Furrow's guns and is not federally licensed.

In dissent, Judge Marsha Berzon said retroactively dismissing a suit with no alternative compensation for the victims is constitutionally questionable. She said the 2005 law should be interpreted to allow claims against gunmakers for "dangerous distribution and marketing practices" that violate state law.

Glock's lawyer, Christopher Renzulli, stressed that Glock "lawfully sold the firearm to law enforcement" and "cannot control the downstream distribution of its product."

Lawyers for the victims could ask the full appeals court to review the ruling. Attorney Juliet Leftwich of Legal Community Against Violence, a San Francisco gun-control organization that filed arguments in the case, said it was unfair to dismiss the case based on "blatant special-interest legislation ... protection that no other industry gets."



Courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle
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