Cincinnati Gun Lawsuit Tossed

A judge Thursday threw out Cincinnati's lawsuit seeking damages from several gunmakers — a suit similar to others pending in more than two dozen U.S. cities — saying he had no authority over the issue. The judge also ruled that the case was vague and unsupported by legal precedent.

The lawsuit demanded gun companies reimburse the city for costs incurred in gun-related crimes. But the judge said gunmakers are not responsible for the criminal misconduct of people who misuse firearms.

The city also sought damages for alleged reduction of property values and loss of tax revenues, plus court orders that would force the defendants to change the way they design, distribute and advertise their products nationally.

Judge Robert Ruehlman of the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court said, "In the view of this court, the city's complaint is an improper attempt to have this court substitute its judgment for that of the legislature."

And he said the city's claims were flawed because the city does not have the legal authority to recover expenditures "for ordinary public services" like law enforcement, which it has a duty to provide.

This action was the first dismissal of such a suit, a lawyer for gun manufacturers said.

Jim Dorr, a Chicago lawyer for gun makers Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc. of Southport, Conn., and Smith & Wesson Corp. of Springfield, Mass., said he hopes to use the ruling by Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman in seeking the dismissal of 17 similar lawsuits representing 27 city or county governments.

"These lawsuits filed by the cities have been, in our opinion, nothing but smoke and mirrors with no legal foundation to them," Dorr said.

The original council vote authorizing Stanley Chesley — the lead attorney for the city — to file the lawsuit, which sought substantial but unspecified damages, was along straight party lines, with the five Democrats on the nine-member City Council in favor of the action.

The firearms industry challenged the suit, resulting in the ruling.

Twenty-seven other U.S. cities and metropolitan jurisdictions have filed similar suits against the gun industry, alleging it should pay the costs of violence that shooting crimes yield.