Hit & Run

Shot Down

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Yesterday U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein threw out a lawsuit in which the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sought to hold the gun industry responsible for violent crime. Given Weinstein's antipathy toward the industry and his affinity for judicial activism, the decision was a surprise.

In May an advisory jury rejected the NAACP's claims against 45 manufacturers and distributors; it reached no conclusion about the liability of 23 others. Weinstein's decision is less favorable to the industry, which he criticized for failing to take precautions that could have prevented criminals from obtaining weapons. Indeed, Weinstein accepted the NAACP's contention that the gun industry had created a "public nuisance" by making firearms too readily available.

At the same time, Weinstein concluded that the organization was not an appropriate plaintiff because "it failed to show that its harm was different in kind from that suffered by any other person in New York." Weinstein said this sort of case should be brought by the city or the state. A New York State lawsuit based on the "public nuisance" argument was tossed out by a state appeals court last month.