Illinois AG opens new front in Illinois’ gun wars

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Such laws generally have been tossed out since Congress during the George W. Bush administration passed legislation designed to prevent most civil suits against the gun industry. Sponsors at the time charged that anti-gun zealots were trying to bankrupt dealers and makers with frivolous suits and thereby restrict a constitutional right.

However, the law had some exceptions, and the new New York law was upheld by a trial judge. It’s now on appeal.

In his brief, Raoul argues that Congress never intended to give the weapons industry a free hand to do whatever it wants. 

“Although the amici states have taken different approaches when enacting measures designed to curb and remediate the effects of gun violence, they agree that public nuisance causes of action like the one created by (the New York law)—which addresses the gun industry members’ own misconduct—fall well within the states’ sovereign authority to protect their residents,” Raoul argued.

Such claims for damage in cases of misconduct are particularly apt when some shops do not act to stop sales to “straw buyers” who are purchasing a weapon for someone else and to gun traffickers.

“Studies show that a large number of firearms in the illegal market originate from a small number of gun industry members and that those firearms are obtained through schemes that can be prevented by the institution of responsible business practices,” the brief asserts. For example, “a quarter of all firearms recovered at crime scenes in Chicago between 2013 and 2016 were purchased at just ten dealers. In fact, two of those stores accounted for 10% of all crime guns recovered during that same period.”

Gun makers and dealers also ought to be liable for damages when they market their products to young people who are not legally eligible to purchase them, the brief argues. “These tactics and advertising materials have been connected to the mass shooters (all under the age of 21) who killed children in Parkland, Florida; Sandy Hook, Connecticut; and Uvalde, Texas, to name a few.”

Illinois does not now have such a law, but it’s a good bet Raoul would like to see one. First, though, he must defend the new Illinois law, which also bans the sale of weapons with large magazines and makes it easier to keep guns away from those with a history of violent tendencies. Raoul says the law is legal. Gun-rights and some other groups strongly disagree.

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January 17, 2023 at 06:02PM

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