The city of Buffalo, New York, has filed a “first of its kind” lawsuit targeting firearms manufacturers, blaming the industry for rising gun violence despite New York’s strict gun control regime.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown on Tuesday announced the wide-ranging lawsuit would be filed against “manufacturers, distributors, and other local gun shops.” Major manufacturers, including Beretta, Smith & Wesson, Bushmaster, Glock and Remington, are named as defendants in the suit, as well as ghost gun retailers Polymer 80 and Arm or Ally.
“Members of our community have suffered too much and for too long from gun violence. We must do everything we can to decrease gun violence. Enabling the possession of illegal guns destroys lives and profoundly effects our neighborhoods, especially in Black and Brown communities,” said Brown.
The lawsuit comes seven months after a racist gunman killed 10 Black people and wounded three others in a shooting massacre at a Buffalo supermarket. Police said the 18-year-old suspect used a legally purchased rifle to carry out the deadly shooting.
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The shocking violence spurred New York Democrats into action and Gov. Kathy Hochul in June signed a sweeping, controversial package of 10 gun control laws that increased licensing requirements to buy rifles, strengthened the state’s “red flag” law, and “closed loopholes” by expanding the definition of a regulated “firearm,” among others measures.
Buffalo officials insisted their actions Tuesday were not meant to prevent legal gun ownership.
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“The City of Buffalo is not going to let these gun industry members continue to flood our City with illegally possessed guns. We must hold them accountable. We have been following the public nuisance law in New York and will be considering additional defendants and causes of action as we get into discovery,” corporation counsel Cavette Chambers said.
Gun rights activists slammed the “junk lawsuit” and accused politicians of blaming the gun industry for their failed efforts to combat violent criminals.
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“This is no different from the frivolous and unsuccessful lawsuits filed against firearm manufacturers in the late 1990s and early 2000s by crime-ridden big-city mayors across the country,” said Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
“Those lawsuits failed because they were legally and factually baseless. But they did, however, result in Congress passing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005 by a broad bipartisan margin,” he said.
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In May, a federal district court in New York upheld the state’s Public Nuisance Law, which enables the attorney general or city corporation counsel to sue gun manufacturers over harms caused by weapons they produce. The law states that “no gun industry member… shall knowingly or recklessly create, maintain or contribute to a condition in New York… that endangers the safety or health of the public through the sale, manufacturing, importing or marketing of a qualified product.”
“We have state public nuisance laws that we are empowered to enforce, and I intend on doing all that I can as mayor to protect people and prevent the loss of lives resulting from gun violence. The conduct of certain gun manufacturers has unreasonably interfered with the public’s right to use open space free from fear,” said Brown.