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Court: Gunmakers Not to Blame

Associated Press
Friday, November 19, 2004; Page A02

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Nov. 18 -- The Illinois Supreme Court threw out two lawsuits accusing gunmakers of knowingly letting weapons fall into the hands of gang members and other criminals, in a ruling Thursday that the manufacturers cannot legally be blamed for street violence.

Both rulings were unanimous, but five of the seven justices were so disturbed by allegations raised in the case that they wrote a separate opinion urging the state legislature to create tougher gun regulations.

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The lawsuits, filed by the city of Chicago and victims of shootings, claimed the defendants created a public nuisance by pouring guns into the Chicago area that are used to kill.

"The mere fact that defendants' conduct in their plants, offices and stores puts guns into the stream of commerce does not state a claim for public nuisance," the court said. "It is the presence and use of the guns within the city of Chicago that constitutes the alleged nuisance."

The city sought $433 million, the amount it claims it paid in law enforcement and emergency medical treatment for gun violence over four years. The families were seeking unspecified damages.

Similar lawsuits had been filed around the country. An earlier wave of product-liability lawsuits -- alleging that guns are unreasonably dangerous -- failed.


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