Chicago Mayor Richard Daley called on Congress yesterday to reject legislation that would block cities from suing gun dealers and firearms makers for sales practices that may make it easier for criminals to obtain weapons. The Chicago Tribune reports that the legislation, which has passed the House of Representatives, would stop a lawsuit by Chicago seeking damages for the cost of gun violence in the city. “You’d think the U.S. Congress would favor our efforts. Most of them say they support law and order and . . . efforts on a local level, Daley said. “Unfortunately, the opposite is true.”
Chicago, which has banned handguns, filed a public nuisance lawsuit in 1998 seeking $433 million in damages against certain suburban gun dealers and national firearms manufacturers. The suit was dismissed by a trial court and reinstated by an appeals court. The Illinois Supreme Court is considering whether to allow it to proceed.
In the Senate, the disputed measure has 55 sponsors, including Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Republican Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee. A spokesman for lead sponsor Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) said the senator has enough commitments of support to get the 60 votes necessary to overcome a attempt to block the measure.
Backers of the legislation say the industry needs to be protected against frivolous litigation and potentially expensive court judgments that could put manufacturers out of business. “The gun industry is being sued for the criminal acts of third parties. The legislation would protect this industry from being bankrupted by greedy trial lawyers and grandstanding mayors,” said Kelly Hobbs of the National Rifle Association.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms industry trade association, says that 24 lawsuits have been filed against the industry by local governments. All but three have been dismissed in lower courts; appeals are pending in several cases.