- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday reinstated a lawsuit that Cincinnati filed against gun makers in an attempt to recoup the cost of gun-related violence.

The justices ruled 4-3 that an appeals court was wrong in dismissing the lawsuit and ordered the case back to Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. Justice Francis Sweeney said yesterday's ruling does not imply that Cincinnati will be successful in its lawsuit but that the city had enough facts to pursue its suit.

"While we do not predict the outcome of this case, we would be remiss if we did not recognize the importance of allowing" this type of lawsuit to go past the initial stages, Justice Sweeney said.

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer disagreed, saying the perceived injuries to Cincinnati were too far removed from the conduct of gun makers to give the city the ability to sue.

"The question is not whether the city can prove that it has suffered damages, but whether the city can prove that those damages are attributable to the wrongdoing of the gun manufacturers as opposed to other, independent factors," Justice Moyer said.

Cincinnati and other local governments say that millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on police and emergency workers in response to gun-related crime, plus the costs of hospitalization, investigation and prosecution.

"In a four-month period, 107 shootings, 13 on one street, four on one block, 200 police calls of 'shots fired' in eight days," Paul DeMarco, an attorney for Cincinnati, argued before justices in October. "The police are so overwhelmed that homicide cops are working 29-hour shifts."

Attorneys for gun makers told the court there is no legal basis for such lawsuits. They said ruling in Cincinnati's favor would make manufacturers of other legal products equally liable.

"Alcoholic beverage manufacturers, who also produce a legal product, would be held liable for misuse of alcohol in the city of Cincinnati," said attorney James Dorr. "The same thing with automobile manufacturers who have a generalized awareness that their automobiles are going to be involved in accidents."

The lawsuit involves several gun makers, including Beretta U.S.A., Colt's Manufacturing Co. and Smith & Wesson Corp.

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