From the Atlanta Journal ConstitutionAtlanta Journal Constitution
|Judge: NYC can sue Georgia gun sellers|
By Bill Rankin, Rhonda Cook
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/16/07
A federal judge on Wednesday kept alive a lawsuit accusing Georgia gun dealers of illegally selling firearms that end up being used in crimes in New York City.
In a 99-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein in Brooklyn said he found ample evidence the gun dealers "have been responsible for the funneling into New York of large quantities of handguns used by local criminals to terrorize significant portions of the city's population."
The judge rejected motions filed by a number of gun shops, including Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna, that sought to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the city of New York. Adventure Outdoors and other gun stores in Ohio, Virginia and South Carolina argued they couldn't be sued in federal court in New York.
In a statement, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg applauded the ruling.
"Today's decision affirms that New York's courts do indeed have jurisdiction to hear a lawsuit against out of state gun dealers whose guns most often end up in the hands of criminals," Bloomberg said. "And it shows that cities can hold those who cause harm to innocent people and the police who protect us accountable."
Eric Wallace of Adventure Outdoors referred questions about the ruling to the company's lawyers. They could not be reached for comment.
The city of New York filed its lawsuit in May 2006 against numerous gun dealers, including five in Georgia.
Three of the Georgia gun shops —- Welsh Pawn Shop in Savannah, AAA Gun & Pawn Brokers in Hephzibah and A-1 Jewelry & Pawn in Augusta —- have reached settlement agreements, according to court records.
A special master, assigned by the court, is monitoring their gun sales and business practices. Another Georgia dealer, the Gun Store in Doraville, did not join in the motions to dismiss the case and remains a defendant in the lawsuit.
Two months after the city of New York filed the lawsuit, Adventure Outdoors filed a $400 million libel suit against the city and Bloomberg. That case is pending in federal court in Atlanta.
In his ruling, Weinstein noted that between 1995 and 2005 there were at least eight federal prosecutions for illegal purchases in which Adventure Outdoors was the source of the guns. He also cited five crimes committed in the city between 1996 and 2001 involving guns purchased at Adventure Outdoors. Weinstein set a Jan. 7 trial date.
The judge said New York has a strong interest in the safety of its residents from handgun violence.
"The activities which the defendants are alleged to be involved in are illegal and against the public interest in all states," the judge wrote.