For Release: Monday, July 21, 2003
WASHINGTON, DC – A federal judge today dismissed a case filed by the NAACP against the firearms industry based on the fact that the organization had not proven a “special injury” under New York law, but, in a 176-page decision, Judge Jack B. Weinstein found that the gun industry’s conduct contributed to the use of its products to commit crimes and acts of violence. Finding that the NAACP had proven the existence of a public nuisance by clear and convincing evidence, the court found that the organization “has demonstrated the great harm done to the New York public by the use and threat of use of illegally available handguns in urban communities,” and that “[m]embers of the industry continue to fail to take many obvious and easily implemented steps” to abate the nuisance.
The NAACP, the nation’s leading civil rights organization, alleged in the lawsuit that the levels of handgun violence and the presence of illegal guns in New York create a public nuisance. The NAACP claimed that the defendants’ irresponsible distribution and marketing practices contributed to the nuisance. While the NAACP also contended that it had been injured by the defendants’ conduct due to the disproportionate impact that handgun violence has on the African American community in New York, the court found that the NAACP had proven that gun violence in New York is a pervasive problem affecting everyone.
Matt Nosanchuk, VPC litigation director and a member of the NAACP’s legal team states, “In effect, the NAACP brought the right case, but was the wrong plaintiff. Today’s forceful and detailed decision repudiates the gun industry’s hollow claims that it bears no responsibility for the flow of handguns from the legal market into criminals’ hands.”
The NAACP’s trial team included lead counsel Elisa Barnes, who was lead counsel in Hamilton v. Accu-tek in 1999; Monica Connell; Dennis Hayes, general counsel and Angela Ciccolo, deputy general counsel, of the NAACP; Sayre Weaver, legal director, and Carolyn Morrissette, general counsel, of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence; and Nosanchuk.