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Industry Coalition to Appeal Illinois Court Decision

Friday, January 11, 2002

As reported in last week`s FAX Alert, an appellate court in Illinois allowed a reckless lawsuit against various gun manufacturers and distributors to proceed under the theory that the firearm industry was creating a public nuisance. On the heels of that misguided ruling, the Hunting & Shooting Sports Heritage Foundation (HSSHF) issued a press release noting that the group has committed its financial resources to an appeal of that case.

Robert Delfay, President and CEO of the Hunting and Shooting Sports Heritage Foundation commented, "This decision seems to totally ignore the fact that every step in the sale and distribution of a firearm is controlled and regulated by the federal government. Manufacturers, distributors and retailers of firearms must be federally licensed, and the retail purchaser must undergo an FBI background check before he or she can take possession of his or her firearm. It is just unfair and illogical to maintain that a manufacturer that supports and complies with all of these regulations can be held liable 10 or 15 years down the road if a criminal obtains and uses a firearm illegally."

"The court`s reasoning fits the textbook definition of arbitrariness. The principle it announces is lawless because it is incapable of being generalized, it is good for only this one instance," commented Daniel Polsby, law professor at George Mason University. "The Illinois General Assembly vigorously surveils and regulates the sale of firearms, but the court`s decision effectively sets all the balancing and negotiation and deliberation of the state`s constitutional lawmaking processes at naught. A blow is thus struck against both democratic practice and against the rights of peaceable taxpaying businesses and their customers. The crowning irony is, not a scintilla of public safety is bought with this expensive coin," Polsby said.

"This is a poorly reasoned decision that runs contrary to every other appellate court in the country," notes Lawrence G. Keane, National Shooting Sports Foundation vice president and general counsel. Keane continued, noting, "State Supreme Court decisions in New York, California, Florida, Connecticut and Louisiana have all concluded that manufacturers of legal, highly-regulated, non-defective products cannot be held legally responsible for the acts of criminals."

"If this extraordinary legal theory is allowed to go forward, it`s `Katie bar the door` for the manufacturer or retailer of any consumer product if that product`s use in a crime might be reasonably foreseen," Delfay said. "This ruling is doubtless being cheered by personal injury lawyers who can look forward to suing gasoline refiners, match manufacturers, auto makers, champagne bottlers, cutlery merchants and any other supplier of a legitimate consumer product for any foreseeable use of their products in crime."

We will be monitoring this case and related developments closely, and will keep you posted accordingly.

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