New York City won a significant victory this week in its civil suit against the firearms industry, says the New York Times. The city won the right to information that could help prove its claim that the industry closes its eyes to the way guns get into the hands of criminals. On Wednesday, a federal magistrate ruled that the city was entitled to federal data that traces the path of guns used in crimes, overruling objections by the Justice Department. Without the data the city would have difficulty proving that the gun industry’s marketing and distribution practices amount to a public nuisance.
The ruling by Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak in Brooklyn involved a contentious legal and political issue over the Bush administration’s reluctance to release the tracing data, which is likely to be helpful to civil suits against the industry around the country. Access to the data has provoked battles in Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 2003 and again this year, the Republican-controlled Congress enacted appropriations measures saying that no funds could be used to release the tracing data.
Eric Proshansky of the city’s law department said the data would enable the city to prove that gun makers have failed to protect the public. A similar battle over a demand for the same information from the City of Chicago is in court. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms may appeal this week’s ruling.