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San Francisco�The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held that gun makers can be held liable for letting weapons fall into the hands of criminals. The decision could bolster similar high-profile cases pending elsewhere in California. A divided panel reinstated a case by victims of a 1999 rampage at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in the Granada Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. The plaintiffs allege that Glock Inc. and others-the makers and the dealer of several weapons used to injure five and kill one-negligently flooded the market, fostering shady secondary markets where crooks could easily obtain a gun. “Because the plaintiffs have stated a cognizable claim under California tort law for negligence and public nuisance against the manufacturers and distributor of the guns used in the shootings, we reverse the district court’s dismissal against the plaintiffs,” Judge Richard Paez wrote. He was joined by Judge Sidney Thomas. Sharp dissent Senior Judge Cynthia Hall dissented, saying the case is controlled by Merrill v. Navegar, 28 P.3d 116, the California Supreme Court decision tossing products liability claims against manufacturers. Hall asserted that the ruling “runs afoul of some of our most basic duties as federal judges. When exercising out diversity jurisdiction, we are required to apply state law whether we agree with it or not.” But the majority reasoned that unlike the Merrill v. Navegar case, Ileto v. Glock, No. 03 C.D.O.S. 9984, is not about allegedly defective weapons-it is about perfectly good weapons falling into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. The case is one of several filed nationally against manufacturers over the way they market and distribute their guns. Until the 9th Circuit’s decision, the Ohio Supreme Court had been the highest court in the land to accept the arguments. According to the complaint, the defendants sold guns in a “high-risk, crime-facilitating manner . . . including [through] gun shows, ‘kitchen table’ dealers, pawn shops, multiple sales, straw purchases, faux ‘collectors’ and distributors, dealers and purchasers whose ATF crime-trace records or other information defendants knew or should have known identify them as high-risk.” For example, the gun manufactured by Glock was first sold to the Cosmopolis Police Department in Washington state. When the police decided the gun was too small, it was sold through a former reserve officer who owned a gun store to a man who claimed to be a gun collector. It was then sold twice at a gun show in Spokane, Wash., which is near Hayden Lake, Idaho, the base of a neo-Nazi group to which Buford Furrow belonged. Furrow shot up the L.A. community center in 1999, injuring three small children and two others. He later killed a postal worker in a separate incident. “I think the issue involves failure to monitor the distribution channels that the manufacturers knew or should know lead to the youth and criminal markets,” said Peter Nordberg of Philadelphia’s Berger & Montague, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “I don’t care what any trace requests [by the Bureau of Alchohol, Tobacco and Firearms trace program] say,” said Christopher Renzulli of New York’s Renzulli, Pisciotti & Renzulli. “We can’t stop selling to police departments. I just don’t know how Glock can monitor downstream distribution of their guns.”

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