DECEMBER 1999

Wednesday, December 1st, 1999

Alan M. Gottlieb, CCRKBA Chairman, said last month that the recent shooting-murders in Honolulu, Hawaii prove all the laws in the world won’t “stop someone from committing a crazy act,” reported Heather Maher of ABCNews.com.
On November 2, seven people died in an office massacre allegedly committed by a colleague who reportedly owned two shotguns, nine rifles and 11 handguns.
Gottlieb told the ABC reporter that the multiplicity and severity of Hawaii’s gun laws are the problem. He said that Hawaii deserves an “F” on a “gun freedom index. Hawaii is an impossible state. Every gun owner complains about the red tape in getting a gun.”
As could be expected, Naomi Pass of Handgun Control, Inc. disagreed with Gottlieb. “The citizens of Honolulu obviously derive from their gun laws a better level of general protection,” she said, “but short of banning private ownership of firearms, which we do not support, you’re not going to avoid every horrendous gun crime.”
Among other things, Hawaii law mandates firearms owner licensing, gun registration, permits to purchase firearms, firearms safety courses, permits to acquire firearms, and 15-day waiting periods to acquire permits to purchase firearms, and bans “assault pistols” and pistol ammunition magazines that can hold over 10 rounds.
Paiss said that what Hawaii needs next is a state law like the one that Connecticut recently enacted. On October 1, Connecticut became the first state to allow police and the courts to remove guns from people “who present a danger to the community.”
Daniel Polsby, a professor at George Mason-University Law School who teaches a course on the Second Amendment, said wondering why crimes like the Honolulu massacre happen in states with restrictive gun laws just “proves that relying too much on gun control laws is bound to lead to disappointment.”

When Josh Sugarmann, Executive Director of the Violence Policy Center, called for an outright ban on handguns on the op-ed page of The New York Times, Robey Newsom, New York City Regional Director of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, asked “Why does Mr. Sugarmann believe that criminals would obey an outright ban on handguns any more than the current laws they flout?” in the November 7 Letters column of the same newspaper.
“And what of the hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Americans who use a firearm each year to deflect a criminal attack,” Robey continued.
“And most important, how does Mr. Sugarmann propose to enforce this ban? Does he think we should suspend the Fourth Amendment and allow police to go door to door to confiscate about 80 million legally owned handguns?”

In Georgia, a state judge ruled that Atlanta may move ahead with its lawsuit seeking to hold gun makers liable for “carnage their product creates.”
Judge Gino Brogdon of Fulton County state court rejected gun makers’ request to throw out the suit, which accuses manufacturers of negligently failing to make guns as safe as possible and to warn of their dangers.
Atlanta is one of 28 cities and counties t that have sued the gun industry, seeking reimbursement of the public costs of “gun violence and reform of manufacturing and marketing practices.”
Gun industry lawyers said they are likely to appeal the decision. The industry won a potentially important legal victory in October when, in the first decision concerning the anti-gun suits, an Ohio state court judge dismissed Cincinnati’s suit against the gun industry.
Paul Jannuzzo, Vice President of the U.S. unit of Austrian handgun manufacturer Glock GmbH, said the industry is likely to appeal the Brogdon decision. He-said he believes a Georgia state law, enacted in February, which bans cities from filing such legal actions, should apply to the Atlanta suit because “the city is a creature of the state.”

When The Washington Post on October 12 questioned editorially the legitimacy of lawsuits brought by cities and counties against the firearms industry, Dennis A. Henigan, Director of the Legal Action Project of the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, countered in the same newspaper on October 29 that “the argument against the city lawsuits is based on the false premise that a party cannot be held liable for conduct that violates no statute. This view confuses criminal liability, which applies only to illegal conduct, with civil liability, which does not. Most of civil tort law concerns the liability of parties whose actions, though they may be legal, nevertheless expose others to an unreasonable risk of harm. If the city lawsuits are ‘undemocratic’ because they are based on rules of law not enacted by legislatures, hen all of civil tort law is ‘undemocratic.’
“The city lawsuits also charge that the gun industry should be liable for failing to take steps in the distribution and marketing of guns to deny access to criminals. These claims are based on legal precedent estabishing that people (and companies) whose conduct violated no law can be held liable or increasing the risk that someone else will act illegally.”

The U. S. Supreme Court agreed last month to decide whether the police may stop and frisk someone solely on the basis of an anonymous, uncorroborated tip that he person is carrying a gun.
Ordinarily, an anonymous tip that describes seemingly innocent behavior and that has not been verified by further police work gives the police an insufficient basis on which to detain someone, even briefly, the court has ruled, reports The New York Times. The question in this case is whether the specific allegation of the presence of a concealed weapon is inherently so alarming as to tilt the constitutional balance in favor of a brief “investigatory detention.”
The Florida Supreme Court said no, declaring last year that it would “decline the state’s invitation to create a firearm or weapon exception to the limitations” that the state and federal constitutions impose on searches and seizures. The state court barred prosecutors from introducing as evidence the unlicensed gun a police officer had discovered in the pants pocket of a teenager who was wearing a plaid shirt and standing with two other youths in front of a pawnshop, details the anonymous caller had provided.
Florida appealed the decision, arguing that guns are so dangerous that the police should not have to wait until a suspect actually brandishes one before moving in. The Fourth Amendment, which bans unreasonable searches, “is not to be read in a vacuum,” the state said, adding that under these circumstances, a brief stop and frisk was ‘reasonable.”
The U.S. Supreme Court case is Florida v. J.L., No. 98-1993, the defendant identified only by initials because of his age.