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January 11, 2024

Indiana Lawmaker Looks to End Gun Control’s Manipulations of Courts

By Larry Keane

If one Indiana lawmaker is successful, the abuse of the legal system by gun control advocates in Gary, Ind., might finally end after nearly a quarter century of costly litigation.

Indiana Republican state Rep. Chris Jeter introduced House Bill 1235, legislation that “provides that only the state of Indiana may bring or maintain an action by or on behalf of a political subdivision against a firearm or ammunition manufacturer, trade association, seller, or dealer concerning certain matters.” The bill “prohibits a political subdivision from otherwise independently bringing or maintaining such an action.”

This is legislation that might finally put an end to a series of moves to manipulate the courts into keeping alive a lawsuit filed in August of 1999 by the City of Gary, Ind., against members of the firearm industry claiming their lawful sales constitute a “public nuisance.”

The City of Gary, Ind., first filed their claims in 1999, as part of a coordinated effort by 40 big city mayors who conspired together through the U.S. Conference of Mayors with gun control activist from Brady United (formerly known as the Brady Center), lawyers and trial lawyers.

All these municipal lawsuits have either been dismissed by the courts, e.g., Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Fransico, Detroit and St. Louis, or simply dropped by several cities, e.g., Boston, Cincinnati and Camden.. Many of these municipal lawsuits were dismissed based on state preemption laws enacted between the 1999 to 2001 time period upon which H.B. 1235 is modeled. Like H.B. 1235, these laws – that have been upheld by the courts – reserve to the state the exclusive authority to sue members of the industry except that they allow for breach of warranty and related claims for firearms a political subdivision purchased. 

Twists and Turns

The City of Gary is the only remaining municipal lawsuit still pending – after almost a quarter century of litigation. The procedural history of the Gary case is a tortured one. Gary’s case has been dismissed three times, only to be reinstated on appeal. The State of Indiana, in 2001, passed a statute to stop such frivolous lawsuits. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) was signed into federal law in 2005, prohibiting public nuisance lawsuits – like Gary’s – from abusing the courts to attempt to hold the firearm industry responsible for the criminal misuse of lawfully sold firearms.

In 2015, Indiana extended its law to apply retroactively to Aug. 26, 1999, which was days before the City of Gary filed its claims.

In 2019, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a ruling by the trial court dismissing the case based on the 2015 statute, deciding that the law did not prohibit all of Gary’s claims.

Stop the Judicial Abuse

More recently, Sturm, Ruger and Co., filed a motion to compel the City of Gary “to serve complete and non-evasive responses to Ruger’s discovery requests.” Specifically, Ruger wants answers to the city’s claims it was harmed by advertising of lawful handgun ownership for personal protection. So far, the city has yet to produce answers as to who was harmed, when they were harmed, how they were harmed the nature of any claimed loss by the city.

The City of Gary’s response was to say flatly that they don’t have to provide answers until they can figure out more reasons. They also contend that gun ownership doesn’t give gun owners an opportunity to defend themselves. That’s a far stretch for the millions  of reports of defensive gun uses in America.

The City of Gary has been on a legal fishing expedition for 24 years. They haven’t hooked into anything that they know will withstand legal scrutiny and they know it. They and their gun control advocates who keep pushing this meritless lawsuit are grasping for anything they can to keep the case alive. Recently, the trial court ordered several retailers to turn over to Brady United hundreds of thousands of ATF Form 4473s containing the names of gun purchasers and their ATF-mandated “acquisition and distribution” records going back to 2004. Gary is now fishing with drift nets.

Rep. Jeter’s bill offers a path to finally ending this legal charade. Indiana already has a state preemption law that forbids municipalities from enforcing a patchwork of gun control laws that the state government hasn’t approved. This legislation would end the abuse of the courts – and Indiana taxpayer dollars – by stopping lawsuits that have no merit and no chance of success.

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