Gary gun lawsuit to continue after transfer denial

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

A long-running firearms lawsuit in the city of Gary will continue after the Indiana Supreme Court declined to revisit a Court of Appeals’ ruling that reinstated the litigation. But not all justices agreed with the transfer decision.

Justice Geoffrey Slaughter would have granted the petition to transfer in the firearm manufacturing case of City of Gary, Indiana v. Smith & Wesson Corp., et al., 18A-CT-181. In that case, Gary is suing firearm manufacturers and dealers and seeking damages for an alleged illegal flood of guns into the northwest Indiana city. The city alleges the manufacturers are engaging in unlawful conduct by choosing not to use reasonable sales practices that would prevent the supply of guns to criminals.

Originally filed in the late 1990s, the lawsuit has survived two derailing attempts by the Indiana General Assembly and numerous rulings by the state trial court dismissing the case. The Court of Appeals’ most recent decision in May was unanimous, reversing the Lake Superior Court and finding that the state’s immunity statute did not protect the defendants against unlawful activity.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a Washington, D.C.-based gun control advocacy group that serves as co-counsel for the city, praised the transfer decision in a statement.

“As the only ongoing case against virtually the entire gun industry, today’s ruling is a victory not only for the city of Gary, but for all gun violence survivors, their families, and their communities,” Jonathan Lowy, Brady vice president of legal and Gary’s co-counsel, said. “Brady is thankful for the sustained and unwavering resolve of the city of Gary to reduce violence in their community, to take the profit out of supplying the crime gun market, and to reveal the truth about the industry practices that fuel gun violence in our communities.”

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, a former Indiana Attorney General, also released a statement saying the city is “pleased” with the transfer ruling.

“Today’s decision means that we can move forward with holding gun manufacturers and dealers responsible for their actions and dealings,” the mayor said. “We are painfully aware of what happens when that responsibility is not taken seriously and believe that irresponsible actors must be held accountable.”

Indiana Lawyer has reached out to counsel and spokespeople for the firearms manufacturers for comment on the transfer decision.

In another split transfer decision, Chief Justice Loretta Rush would have granted transfer in the case of Nathan K. Baker v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-2744, in which Nathan Baker was sentenced to 133 years for murdering two men and robbing them.

Baker alleged his sentence was unconstitutionally disproportionate and that the Martin Circuit Court erred when it admitted his confessions and refused to find his low IQ as a mitigating circumstance at sentencing. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court.

The full list of transfer decisions for the week ending Nov. 29, when no cases were granted transfer, can be found here. 

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