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Rochester officials plan to sue gun manufacturers

Similar suits filed by state and New York City

Rochester officials plan to sue gun manufacturers

Similar suits filed by state and New York City

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The city of Rochester is suing gun makers for their role in fueling gun violence here.

On Tuesday, Mayor Malik Evans, Corporation Counsel Linda S. Kingsley, and attorneys from Napoli Shkolnik PLLC announced that a lawsuit will be filed soon in state Supreme Court.

The action is intended to hold manufacturers, importers, and distributors of firearms responsible for the illegal and unreasonable sale, manufacture, distribution, importing, and marketing of firearms. The city is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, the creation of an abatement fund, and reimbursement of attorneys’ fees.

Gun violence in Rochester and across the country has surged over the past two years. Possible causes include economic stress linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, national civil unrest, and the increased availability of illegal firearms, city officials say.

The defendants, such as Beretta, Smith & Wesson, Glock, Remington and Bushmaster, and other companies, manufactured or distributed thousands of firearms recovered in crimes committed in Rochester and New York state.

“Addressing gun violence is a top priority of my administration, and I want to tackle this issue on every front,” Evans said in a news release.

“Violence prevention requires a multitude of strategies and a significant amount of collaboration. This is just the latest tactic I will dedicate to eradicating gun violence in Rochester,” he said.

A New York state law, adopted last year, allows for public nuisance civil lawsuits to be brought against gun manufacturers and dealers, bypassing the blanket immunity provided to the industry under federal law.

On May 25, U.S. District Court Judge Mae A. D’Agostino, in the Northern District of New York, upheld the state law enabling the Attorney General or city corporation counsel to sue manufacturers over harm caused by weapons produced and distributed.

The law (General Business Law, Section 898 (a-e), says that “no gun industry member…shall knowingly or recklessly create, maintain or contribute to a condition in New York… that endangers the safety or health of the public through the sale, manufacturing, importing or marketing of a qualified product.”

New York State Attorney General Letitia James and New York City Mayor Eric Adams filed similar lawsuits against gun companies this year.

On June 6, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a state legislative package that strengthened the state’s gun laws and closed loopholes revealed by shooters in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas.

On June 25, President Joe Biden approved federal gun legislation providing millions of dollars to the states for gun intervention programs and mental health services. The federal laws also strengthened background checks for potential gun buyers under the age of 21 and closed other loopholes in existing law preventing those convicted of domestic abuse from purchasing a gun.

The city is being represented in the lawsuit by the New York City law firm Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, a national law firm that represents victims and governmental entities across the country in complex litigation, arbitration, and mediation.

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