The state legislature’s power trumps that of a city, a Missouri appellate court said yesterday in throwing out St. Louis’ lawsuit seeking to make firearm makers pay money for the social cost of gun violence, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Citing a law that took effect last October, a three-judge panel affirmed the trial judge’s dismissal of the suit against 32 named and unnamed weapons manufacturers, dealers, and distributors. The defendants were accused of a failure to properly supervise the sale and distribution of firearms, and to prevent the guns from ending up in the hands of criminals. From 1994 to 1999, the St. Louis Police Department seized 18,766 guns.
The suit was similar to dozens filed around the nation. Proponents sought compensatory and punitive damages from the gun makers the way some courts put financial blame on the tobacco industry for the public cost of smokers’ health problems. “In no instance, have any municipalities won after a final conclusion of a case,” Lawrence Greenwald, a Baltimore attorney representing the gun industry. “The fundamental issue which cuts through this entire case is: Should the city, which is not a person who got shot, collect from gun makers, who didn’t do the shooting?” Greenwald had argued to the panel. Overriding a veto by Gov. Bob Holden, the legislature declared that, “The lawful design, marketing, manufacture, distribution, or sale of firearms or ammunition to the public is not an abnormally dangerous activity and does not constitute a public or private nuisance.”