SOURCE: National Shooting Sports Foundation

July 20, 2005 15:26 ET

Firearm Manufacturers Ask U.S. Supreme Court to Review Case

NEWTOWN, CT -- (MARKET WIRE) -- July 20, 2005 -- Firearm manufacturers today filed papers asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruling permitting lawsuits against firearms manufacturers under the District of Columbia's "Assault Weapon Manufacturing Strict Liability Act."

Firearm manufacturers maintain the District's act is unconstitutional because it is intended to and does regulate out-of-state commerce. The statute imposes liability, for example, when an out-of-state manufacturer (it has long been unlawful to manufacture and sell firearms in the District) sells a gun to a federally licensed retailer who then sells the firearm to the local police chief where -- maybe years later -- it is stolen during a burglary and illegally smuggled into the District where it is misused by a criminal to shoot someone. Liability against the law-abiding manufacturer in this example is automatic and absolute because the act imposes liability "without regard to fault or proof of defect."

"There is simply no way to avoid liability, except to go out of business -- precisely the law's intent and practical effect," said Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearm industry.

Firearm manufacturers are represented by former United States Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, now a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Los Angles-based Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher LLP. In the manufacturers' petition for a writ of certiorari, Olson argues the District is directly regulating interstate commerce in firearms in violation of the Commerce and Due Process clauses of the Constitution and improperly projecting its public policy choices on firearms nationwide, in violation of bedrock principles of federalism enshrined in the Constitution.

"The case presents significant questions of constitutional law and federalism that are important not just to the firearms industry but to product manufacturers in general," said Olson.

The case was originally dismissed by District of Columbia Superior Court judge Cheryl Long in May of 2002, who ruled the Act violated the Commerce Clause and the Due Process clause of the Constitution.

On April 21, 2005, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals held, in the case of District of Columbia, et al v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp., et al, that the District's "Assault Weapon Manufacturing Strict Liability Act" did not violate the Constitution. The court ruled victims of criminal shootings in the District could sue out-of-state manufacturers and sellers under the District's Act.

Keane said, "The District of Columbia decision and the lawsuits it will spawn will impose crushing liability upon blameless manufacturers. No industry in America should have to bear the burden of such unwarranted lawsuits."

Read the full petition (www.hsshf.org/share/legal/litigation/PDF/DC-Deft-SCourt-Certiorari.pdf)

EDITOR'S NOTES

-- The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) is the firearm industry's trade association. For more information, please visit www.nssf.org.

-- Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP is a leading international law firm. Consistently ranking among the world's top law firms in industry surveys and major publications, Gibson Dunn is distinctively positioned in today's global marketplace with more than 800 lawyers and 13 offices, including Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Palo Alto, London, Paris, Munich, Brussels, Orange County, Century City, Dallas and Denver.

-- Theodore B. Olson is a partner in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's Washington, D.C. office. He is a member of the firm's Executive Committee, serves as Co-Chair of the Appellate and Constitutional Law Practice Group, and heads the firm's Crisis Management Team. Mr. Olson was Solicitor General of the United States during the period 2001-2004. From 1981-1984 he was Assistant United States Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel. Except for those two intervals, he has been a lawyer with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., since 1965. Mr. Olson is one of the nation's premier appellate and United States Supreme Court advocates. He has argued 41 cases in the Supreme Court, including Bush v. Palm Beach Country Canvassing Board and Bush v. Gore, stemming from the 2000 presidential election.

Contact Information

  • For more information contact:
    Lawrence G. Keane
    Cell: (203) 526-6773
    Office: (203) 426-1320