BELLEVUE, WA (December 9, 1998)-The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), a gun owner advocacy and educational organization, notified the US Conference of Mayors in a faxed letter dated Dec. 8 that it plans to sponsor a “damage action” against the cities of Chicago and New Orleans for conspiracy to violate civil rights, abuse of process and undue burden on interstate commerce.
The Foundation’s letter to J. Thomas Cochran, executive director of the US Conference of Mayors, said that a steering committee of distinguished law professors, who will serve without compensation, has been assembled as a response to the “frivolous suits” which New Orleans and Chicago filed recently against firearms manufacturers, their trade associations and federally licensed firearms dealers. SAF warned the mayors’ conference on the eve of its scheduled Dec. 10 meeting in Chicago that the suit which it expected to file in Louisiana early next year will also name any other cities which follow the New Orleans and Chicago lead.
Noting that the mayors had invited lawyers involved in the suits against the firearms industry to address the meeting, Alan M. Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, encouraged the conference to also invite a rebuttal presentation by a member of the 12-member steering committee, Daniel D. Polsby, Kirkland & Ellis professor of law at Northwestern University.
“From coast to coast, noted law professors seem to agree with the many newspaper editorials which have suggested that the lawsuits filed by the cities of New Orleans and Chicago against firearms manufacturers and marketers are ill-conceived, ill-advised and totally without merit,” said Gottlieb.
“Whatever problems the cities may have with the criminal and negligent misuse of firearms, their suits against the gun manufacturers make as much sense as suing the National Weather Bureau for the cost of storm damages,” Gottlieb added.
Even newspapers and magazines which advocate strict controls over firearms and their purchasers have with unusual consistency questioned the advisability of the kind of suits that have been filed by the cities against the firearms industry. They see these as an attempt to pervert the concept of product liability as an extension of the arguments used in the state attorneys general suits against the tobacco industry.
“The nature and status of guns and tobacco are not analogous,” said Joseph P. Tartaro, president of SAF. “Firearms have a significant beneficial use in our society beyond recreation, since independent research shows they are used over 2 million times a year to prevent or terminate predatory criminal assaults.”
“The New Orleans and Chicago lawsuits are not only frivolous they are dangerous because they are an extension of legal and political buccaneering that will rape Americans of the means to self-defense while looting a legal industry.”
“The Foundation’s primary interest is to safeguard the traditional legal rights of law-abiding and peaceable American gun owners,” Gottlieb said. “We are not industry advocates. Gun makers and sellers just happen to be the visible targets of the frivolous actions brought by New Orleans and Chicago. If these were standard product liability suits, we wouldn’t have more than a passing interest in what the cities are attempting to do.”
The law professors on the Foundation’s steering committee for the lawsuit against the cities besides Prof. Polsby are: Steven Calabresi, professor of law, Northwestern University, Chicago; Robert A. Carter, professor of law and Judge Alexander P. Waugh Sr. scholar, Rutgers University-Newark; Robert J. Cottrol, professor of constitutional law and legal history, George Washington University, Washington, DC; Michael I. Krauss, professor of law, George Mason University, Arlington, VA; Gary S. Lawson, professor of law, Northwestern University, Chicago; Calvin R. Massey, Hastings College of Law, San Francisco; John McGinnis, Cardozo Law School, New York City; Glenn Harlan Reynolds, professor of law, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN; Charles E. Rice, professor of law; Notre Dame University, South Bend, IN; Larry Soderquist, professor of law and director of the Corporate and Securities Law Institute, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN;, and George Strickler, professor, Tulane University Law School, New Orleans, LA.