March 2001

Guns, Politics, & Lawsuits

Blue Dog Democrats Reject Gun Control: A coalition of some 30 conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives, blaming their party’s failure to win back the House because of the gun-control issue, are urging their party to drop it from the Democratic agenda. The group believes the issue hurt Democratic candidates in many races. “As we analyzed what happened and why we’re not successful in some of these races, that [gun control] just stands out,” said U.S. Rep. Marion Berry (D-AR).

House Democratic leadership aides blame the Clinton administration’s aggressive stance on gun control for the party’s poor showing. “We don’t want it to be part of the Democratic agenda. We just don’t think it’s a good issue for the party,” Berry said.

Philadelphia Adopts Gun Registration Ordinance. In what is sure to spark another round of legal action in the “City of Brotherly Love,” the city council recently passed a new gun registration law requiring residents with firearm permits to submit annually a list of all the guns they own. Observers note that state law preempts municipal governments from attempting to regulate firearms ownership, and a legal challenge to the new ordinance is sure to follow. The city has twice before attempted to enact gun controls that were subsequently overruled by the courts.

City’s Suit Declared Unconstitutional. Declaring the City of Gary’s suit against gun manufacturers an unconstitutional attempt to regulate interstate commerce, Lake County, Indiana Superior Court Judge James J. Richards dismissed the city’s case against 18 manufacturers, one distributor, and six retailers.

In a strongly worded opinion on January 12, Judge Richards described the city’s suit as a “radical departure” from established law and said the suit was an effort by the city and mayor at “arbitrary social reform” that sought to create a body of “judge made gun laws.” Gary joins Cincinnati, Bridgeport, Miami, Chicago, Camden County and Philadelphia in having their lawsuits to hold gunmakers accountable for the criminal misuse of firearms dismissed.

Following the state court’s rejection, however, the City of Gary filed an amended complaint that added a number of new defendants and dropped others that were named in the original suit including industry trade associations. The industry will promptly file a motion to again dismiss this case.

It Is Happening Here. Massachusetts reader Mike Armstrong wrote to say, “Thank you for the wonderful eulogy for Massachusetts shooters in the January 2001 issue. I sadly live in Massachusetts. I am trying to get my family out of Massachusetts. I have devoted every waking moment to finding a new job in the promised land of the South. My roots go back over 150 years in this state. I can’t believe this is happening.”

-Todd Woodard