For Release: Thursday, February 11, 1999
Jury Condemns Gun Makers’ Shadowy Practices
The Violence Policy Center hailed today’s verdict against firearm manufacturers in federal court in Brooklyn as a landmark in the effort to hold the gun industry accountable for its irresponsible practices.
“This is the first victory, but not the last,” said VPC Director of Federal Policy Kristen Rand, who has studied litigation against the gun industry around the country. “1999 may be the ‘Year of Gun Litigation.’ This verdict shows that the gun industry, like the tobacco industry, is vulnerable in the courtroom. It will encourage cities and individuals alike to pursue innovative legal strategies.”
The case decided today, Hamilton v. Accu-Tek, is the first attempt to take on the gun industry as a whole. Its theory of “negligent distribution” is similar to the argument made in Chicago’s lawsuit. So far, four other cities – New Orleans, Miami, Atlanta, and Bridgeport, CT – have filed cases based on other theories.
The victory – and a probable appeal by the defendants – will surely intensify focus on the gun industry’s internal workings.
“Firearm manufacturers have operated in the shadows for a long time, and litigation will finally let Americans see what they’ve been up to,” said VPC Senior Policy Analyst Tom Diaz, author of the new book Making a Killing: The Business of Guns in America (New Press, January 1999). “The gun industry has been making a killing for years, and now it must pay the price for its lethal products.”
Rand gave much of the credit for today’s verdict to plaintiffs’ attorney Elisa Barnes, who began the case alone on a shoestring budget. “Elisa Barnes really was David to the gun industry’s Goliath,” Rand said. “It was her creative legal thinking, dedication, and energy that made this triumph possible.”