Indiana Governor Signs Bill Mooting Lawsuit Against Gunmakers

AP Photo/Marco Garcia, File

The city of Gary, Indiana's long-running lawsuit against major firearm manufacturers has been shot down by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, just a few days after the legislature gave its final stamp of approval to a bill that prohibits any cities or other political subdivisions from suing a firearm or ammunition manufacturer, trade association, seller, or dealer over the design, manufacture, importing or exporting, distribution, advertising,  marketing, sale; or criminal, unlawful, or unintentional use of their products. 


Under HB 1235, that prohibition retroactively applies to any lawsuit that was filed on or after Aug. 27, 1999, which would include Gary's lawsuit, which has been kicking around the court system for almost 25 years now. With the measure taking effect immediately upon Holcomb's signature, Gary's lawsuit should be mooted, though the city will almost certainly try to have the new law tossed out by the courts. 

Holcomb said after signing the new law that he expects it will finally resolve Gary's gun lawsuit in a manner favored by the Republican-controlled General Assembly. 

"While HEA 1235 does not impede families or businesses from legally challenging gun manufacturers, retail stores or trade associations, it does bring closure to a long standing statewide legislative debate. This bill brings certainty that only the state, not political subdivisions, can bring forward such a lawsuit in the future," Holcomb said. 

... State Sen. Rodney Pol, D-Chesterton, who works as an attorney for the city of Gary, said he's "extremely disappointed" the Legislature acted to kill Gary's lawsuit.

"The city of Gary should have the right to its day in court in a lawsuit that the courts have held time and time again to be a valid claim," Pol said. "Passing this bill sends the message to all major industries that if you do not like being held accountable, you can come to the Indiana Legislature and never be held liable for unlawful actions. This is the opposite of 'draining the swamp.'"

A status conference in the Gary gun case is scheduled for May 8 before Lake Superior Judge John Sedia in Hammond.


Gary's lawsuit is a politically motivated stunt that's been shambling zombie-like through the legal system for more than two decades, but this bill will hopefully put an end to the city's lawsuit, which seeks to blame the firearms industry for the actions of criminals. The Indiana courts have bent over backward to keep the lawsuit alive, ruling that the lawsuit can continue despite the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and a similar bill approved by Indiana legislators back in 2015. 

HB 1235 is essentially an extension of the state's firearm preemption law, which prohibits political subdivisions from adopting their own gun control ordinances and instead leaves gun policy in the hands of the legislature. Under the measure, the Indiana Attorney General's office is the only governmental entity that could file this type of litigation in the future, which means that the gun control lobby is out of luck when it comes to recruiting Democrat-controlled cities in the state to sue the firearms industry out of existence.

Probably, anyway. Having seen the extraordinary lengths that the courts have gone to in order to keep Gary's lawsuit viable, I'm a little concerned that even this piece of legislation won't be enough to cause the case to finally be dismissed. We'll see what happens at the status conference in May. By that time city officials, along with their allies like Brady, may have already filed another lawsuit; one seeking to undo HB 1235's prohibitions and allowing the city to continue its misguided and malignant attacks on gun makers and sellers. 


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