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La. Court Throws Out Gun Lawsuit

April 4, 2001

NEW ORLEANS, La. (AP) _ Louisiana’s Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out New Orleans’ lawsuit aimed at forcing gun manufacturers to pay the costs of gun violence.

In a 5-2 decision, the court upheld a state law passed to retroactively block the lawsuit and said the city had no right to sue anyway.

New Orleans was the first local government in the nation to accuse gun makers of selling unsafe products and creating a public nuisance.

After Mayor Marc Morial went to court in 1998, more than 30 cities and counties around the country filed similar complaints. Dozens of states followed the Louisiana Legislature’s lead and passed laws against such lawsuits.

In lower-court judge in Louisiana had found the law unconstitutional.

But the state’s high court said the state and U.S. constitutions protect private citizens _ not local governments _ from retroactive laws. It also agreed with gun makers that the New Orleans lawsuit intruded on the state’s power to regulate firearms.

Lawrence Keane, attorney for the National Shooting Sports Federation, applauded the ruling.

``The power to regulate an industry lies with the Legislature, state or federal _ not with a particular mayor filing a lawsuit against an industry,″ he said.

In a dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Pascal Calogero said the city’s lawsuit was an attempt to recover damages, not to regulate the firearms industry.

Morial said the city’s lawyers would ask for a rehearing by the Supreme Court.

``The Supreme Court basically closed the door to victims of gun violence and sided with the gun lobby’s bullying tactics,″ he said.

Update hourly