Much has been written about the many lawsuits initiated by municipalities against the handgun industry. They are premised on the claim that the gun manufacturers and distributors saturate the market and fail to prevent their retailers from selling to persons who might resell to criminals. See, e.g., Lawrence S. Greenwald, Municipalities’ Suits Against Gun Manufacturers – Legal Folly, 4 J. Health Care Law & Policy 13 (2000). Plaintiffs typically seek both damages and injunctive relief that would change industry marketing practices. The gun industry has challenged the legal sufficiency of the lawsuits on multiple grounds, with the majority of courts that have considered these issues dismissing the lawsuits. Recent developments, however, suggest that the pendulum may be swinging back in the governmental plaintiffs’ favor.
Three factors indicate that plaintiffs may be gaining ground. First, appellate courts in several jurisdictions have reversed the trial courts’ summary dismissals and reinstated cases to trial dockets. Second, a recent federal court decision in NAACP v. Acusport, Inc., et. al, 99 CV-3999 (E.D.N.Y. July 21, 2003), might have laid the evidentiary groundwork necessary to permit the success of public nuisance cases that survive motions to dismiss. Finally, recent bankruptcies and settlements by firearm manufacturers indicate that the defendants are feeling the financial pinch of extended years of litigation.
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