For Release: Wednesday, June 30, 1999
Massachusetts Ruling Upholds Nation’s First Consumer Regulation of Guns
The Violence Policy Center applauded today’s landmark ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which hands a major defeat to the gun industry and paves the way for the nation’s first consumer regulation of firearms.
The unanimous decision by the state’s highest court upholds Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly’s authority to enforce firearm design and safety regulations. The new rules crack down on so-called “junk guns” or “Saturday night specials,” and mandate safety devices for firearms. The regulations were first issued in 1997 by former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, who developed them in consultation with the VPC.
From the start, gun manufacturers challenged the regulations in court. The American Shooting Sports Council, an industry trade group, was the lead plaintiff in the case. Today’s decision comes on the heels of February’s verdict in federal court in Brooklyn holding gun makers liable for negligent distribution of firearms.
“This is a double defeat for the gun industry,” said Kristen Rand, the VPC lawyer who worked on the regulations. “Not only is this the industry’s second major courtroom loss this year, but it marks the first time in America that guns will be treated the same as every other consumer product.”
Federal law exempts guns from consumer health and safety standards that apply to virtually every other product in America, from toasters to jumbo jets. As a result, toy guns are regulated while real guns are not.
“Gun makers fought tooth and nail to preserve their deadly immunity from regulation and lost,” Rand said. “This is a very good omen for the lawsuits against the industry by major cities.”