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Firearms litigation - a new age is dawning.

If you have high blood pressure, you may want to quickly flip to the next page because you are not likely to be too happy to find out that now there's a detailed book out on how to sue firearms manufacturers, dealers and owners.

Actually, it's a two-volume set from Shephard's/McGraw Hill, Inc., entitled Firearms Litigation: Law, Science, and Practice. One of the authors is Windle Turley, head of the Dallas, TX, trial firm of Windle Turley, P.C., and probably the nation's leading advocate of lawsuits against gun dealers and manufacturers.

The other author is James E. Rooks Jr., who practices law with Chaikin & Karp, P.C., in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. Rooks has also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Coalition to Ban Handguns (NCBH).

I don't know Rooks, but I had a lengthy telephone conversation with Turley a few years ago. Let me assure you that Turley made it clear he is interested in banning firearms through litigation; his actions have nothing to do with what we would think of as firearms safety.

At the time, I was writing a story for the National Rifle Association's tabloid, then called Reports from Washington. Turley obviously did not recognize the name of the publication and thought he was talking with just another friendly, anti-gun reporter. Although at times he has claimed he only wants to ban Saturday Night Specials through litigation, he made no distinction between Saturday Night Specials and all other handguns in that frank conversation.

How much money is involved in these types of cases? Well, let me put it this way: Firearms Litigation sells for $145.

Shephard's/McGraw Hill promotes the two-volume set through a folder headlined, "Powerful Ammunition for your next Firearms Case."

"Every year firearms kill 25,000 Americans. Another 100,000 are seriously injured," the folder declares. "With an estimated 50 million handguns and several times that many shotguns and rifles in U.S. households, it's no wonder the courts are now treating firearms incidents as serious causes of action."

The folder states that Firearms Litigation covers causes of action such as:

* negligence in the use and handling of firearms;

* negligence in the sale or storage of firearms;

* negligence in the manufacture and sale of an unreasonably dangerous product;

* strict liability for the sale of a defectively designed product; and

* intentional torts.

Firearms Litigation also provides an in-depth analysis of what it says are the most common situations where the courts have awarded damages, including:

- premises liability;

- hunting accidents;

- shootings involving police and military;

- snipers;

- unlawful sale, possession and use of firearms

- workplace injuries; and

- use of firearms by children or incompetents.

The book reviews various firearms liability cases and even comes with technical illustrations of various guns involved in these cases.

The product liability threat through the courts may yet prove more dangerous than the political one. There is no question that any firearm - just like any lawn mower or hammer - is dangerous if misused.

On the political front, I think we were all sad to hear Sen. James McClure (R-ID) announce that he will not seek re-election this fall. McClure is unquestionably the leader of the pro-gun forces in the Senate.

What has impressed me most over the years, as I have interviewed McClure and stayed in close contact with his staff, is that here is a guy who is a "true believer." McClure believes in the right to bear arms and opposes gun control because that is where his heart is, not because of any political pressure.

McClure is more than just a pro-gun vote; he is a pro-gun leader and strategist who will be hard to replace.

McClure, who has served three terms in the Senate, has indicated he is eager to return to Idaho and spend more time with his family, especially his grandchildren. He will also have more time for shooting and hunting.

However, there was also good political news. Anti-gun Congressman Robert Garcia (R-NY) resigned his seat in the House as he awaited sentencing on his extortion conviction in the Wedtech scandal. Garcia and his wife are facing up to 45 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.

Garcia isn't the only one in trouble these days. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) reports that in fiscal 1989, it recommended 7,477 defendants for prosecution, approximately 2,000 more than in fiscal 1988. ATF said this 36% increase reflects its aggressiveness in attacking violent crime, especially as it relates to drug trafficking.

"Our case load is increasing daily, particularly in the area of narcotics related weapons offenses; and we are having a significant impact," said ATF Director Stephen E. Higgins.

One of the areas in which ATF's efforts have been increasingly focused is in Project Achilles, an initiative to target the "armed career criminal." Project Achilles investigations have so far resulted in 671 people being sentenced to a total of 6,837 years behind bars.

You have heard the saying: What if you threw a party and nobody came? Well, what if you threw a party and only people you don't like came?

That's sort of what happened recently when New Jersey Citizens to Stop Gun Violence announced a rally at a Princeton church. According to reports, less than 40 anti-gunners (including politicians) showed up, while some 300 pro-gunners showed up.

Finally, as I write this column a vote looms in the U.S. Senate on semiautomatic legislation. Right now it looks like we will win, but it will be tough - and probably close.
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Author:Schneider, Jim
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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