In back-to-back victories for the firearms industry, judges in two states have dismissed lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers.
A state judge in Florida tossed out a suit by Miami-Dade County yesterday, three days after a Connecticut state judge dismissed a similar lawsuit brought by the mayor and city of Bridgeport.
The two lawsuits mirror other suits filed by municipalities that allege that guns have created a public nuisance, threatening residents' health and safety, and that gun manufacturers, like polluters, should have to pay for the cleanup.
But in their separate decisions, the judges in Connecticut and Florida reached the same conclusion: The governments lack legal standing to sue.
"The plaintiffs have no statutory or common-law basis to recoup their expenditures," ruled the judge in Bridgeport. "Public nuisance does not apply to the design, manufacture, and distribution of a lawful product," said the Florida judge.
The mayors of Bridgeport and of Miami-Dade County sued the firearms industry, claiming negligence, product liability and public nuisance. Those mayors said that the industry was responsible for the illegal flow of handguns into their areas.
The mayors want to recover gun violence costs for police, fire and emergency services. Bridgeport further sued to recover money lost from depressed property values and businesses that moved out of the city.
Bridgeport and Miami-Dade are among 29 cities and counties--including Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles--suing more than two dozen gun makers. In October, an Ohio judge threw out a similar lawsuit filed by the city of Cincinnati.
In one setback for the firearms industry, a state court judge in Georgia earlier had ruled that Atlanta could pursue its negligence claims against gun makers.
Last week, President Clinton said his administration is thinking about filing a federal lawsuit on behalf of the 3 million people living in public housing. Clinton's move was an attempt to force the industry into negotiations to settle the municipalities' lawsuits.
Anne Kimball, a Chicago lawyer representing Smith & Wesson Corp. and other gun makers, said the judges saw that the actions of criminals cannot be controlled by the firearms industry. "There is no quarrel that everyone is concerned about violence. . . . The question is what to do about it. But these lawsuits are wrong," she said.