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Indiana Gun Lawsuit Seeking Industry Accountability Jeopardized By State Legislature

For nearly a quarter century, some of the world’s largest gunmakers have tried unsuccessfully to beat back a lawsuit brought by the city of Gary, Indiana, accusing them of turning a blind eye to illegal gun sales, ProPublica reports. The lawsuit was one of dozens that cities filed against gun manufacturers in the late 1990s, but it is the only one to survive a barrage of legal challenges and legislation aimed at limiting the gun industry’s liability for crimes committed with their products. Now, facing the prospect of turning over internal documents that gun-control advocates believe could contain damning evidence, the industry has returned to an important ally in a last-ditch effort to kill the suit: the state legislature. Republicans, who hold supermajorities in both chambers of the Statehouse, are close to passing a bill banning cities from suing firearm manufacturers, dealers or trade groups. Instead, only the state could bring such a lawsuit. The bill has strong backing from the firearms industry, which has dramatically ramped up its lobbying efforts at the Statehouse.

The bill was passed by the House last week and now moves to the Senate. The effort is prompting anger in Gary, which is about 160 miles from Jeter’s largely suburban district. “As someone who has experienced gun violence personally, I believe it is critical that we have the legal ability to hold bad actors accountable and to ensure the ongoing safety of our public,” Mayor Eddie Melton said in a statement. “Indiana House Bill 1235 removes the rights of Gary and any Indiana community to represent itself in a court of law.” After years of legal wrangling, the Lake County judge overseeing the suit ruled last fall that the defendants in the case must comply with the city’s requests to turn over decades of internal records as part of a legal process known as discovery. City attorneys are seeking thousands of documents detailing manufacturers’ market research, retailers’ firearms purchases and any communications about gun trafficking and straw sales — in which a gun is purchased with the intent to resell it to someone prohibited from buying firearms. The House bill, set to take effect in July if signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, appears aimed at preempting the exchange of those records.


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