Claims of "Public Nuisance" and Negligence Dismissed in En Banc Hearing of Washington, D.C. City Case
April 25, 2005
Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. (NYSE: RGR), the nation's largest firearms manufacturer, is pleased to announce that on April 21, 2005, the court in an en banc rehearing, following what has become a strong legal trend, unanimously dismissed all common law claims including "negligence" and "public nuisance" against all defendants in the Washington, D.C. municipal lawsuit against the Company and other members of the firearms industry (District of Columbia. v. Beretta USA et al., No. 03-CV-24; Lawson et al. v. Beretta USA et al., No. 03-CV-38).
The court let stand claims based upon the Washington D.C. "strict liability" act against identified manufacturers of "machine guns," as defined in the act, used in crimes against city residents. None of the pleadings in this case identify a Sturm, Ruger firearm as having been used in any of these criminal shootings. It is uncertain at this time if any further appeal will be pursued by any party to this lawsuit.
While the D.C. Act purports to assign liability only to manufacturers of "assault weapons" and "machine guns" used by criminals in the District, its inexpertly drafted language could conceivably apply to any magazine-fed autoloading firearm, which includes target pistols and hunting rifles. The Company does not manufacture assault weapons or machine guns for commercial sale to non-law enforcement, and does not on present information believe that any of its conventional firearms were used in any of the criminal shootings which underlie the D.C. lawsuit.
However, this misbegotten statute again clearly demonstrates the need for effective federal preemption legislation to finally end these wasteful lawsuits. "If a manufacturer lawfully sold a completely conventional firearm to a licensed retired police chief in New York which was subsequently stolen and, many years later through a series of underworld transactions, ended up being misused by a criminal in Washington, D.C., this bill would make the manufacturer absolutely liable, without any defenses," said Sturm, Ruger President Stephen L. Sanetti. "This is an unfair inversion of responsibility and creates an impossible situation for any manufacturer of any lawfully-sold product, short of ceasing business altogether. This is not the American way, and Congress needs to stop this impossible situation as soon as possible," he concluded.
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