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Court Says Gunmaker Can Be Sued

September 30, 1999

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A California appeals court ruled Wednesday that the families of eight people shot to death in a law office in 1993 are entitled to sue the manufacturer of a gun used in the massacre.

This is the first time any appellate court has allowed a gun maker to be sued for a criminal shooting. The justices acknowledged that other appeals courts to consider the issue have ruled that manufacturers of legal, non-defective guns cannot be sued for their criminal misuse.

The families contend the manufacturer of the TEC-DC9 marketed it to criminals and should have foreseen that it would be used in a massacre.

The three-member appeals panel ruled 2-1 to reinstate the families’ lawsuit against Navegar Inc., a case that had been dismissed by a lower court. The dissenting justice said shooter Gian Luigi Ferri was solely responsible for the 1993 attack.

The ruling ``provides legal precedent for finding that (the) gun industry can be held accountable for irresponsible conduct leading to death and injury,″ the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, which represented the families, said in a statement Wednesday.

Navegar lawyer Ernest Getto said the company probably will appeal to the California Supreme Court.

He said the court seemed to be creating a new type of damage suit and was relying on marketing statements that the gunman never saw.

The justices acknowledged that other courts have supported the gun industry’s claim it should not be held responsible for criminal behavior.

But they said the San Francisco case was unusual. An identical gun has been banned in California, though not in Florida, where the pistols were made, or Nevada, where they were sold; there is evidence that the TEC-DC9 has no legitimate civilian use; and the company’s ads, including one that touted the gun as fingerprint-resistant, suggested criminals were among its intended customers, the justices said.

A TEC-DC9 also was used in the shootings at Columbine High School.

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