Gary v. Smith & Wesson Corp | Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Gary v. Smith & Wesson Corp


In the late 1990s, the Brady Center developed a nationwide strategy to hold irresponsible members of the firearms industry (manufacturers, distributors, and dealers) accountable for supplying--and profiting from--the criminal gun market through negligent marketing and sales practices. Cities from across the country, including New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Detroit, Cincinnati, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and Chicago, brought lawsuits against the gun industry, most of them represented by Brady Center attorneys. This case is the last surviving city lawsuit.

The City of Gary is less than an hour's drive from Chicago. Like many other cities, both Gary and Chicago suffer from an unusually high level of violent crime committed with handguns. In August, 1999, the City, with the assistance of attorneys at the Brady Center, brought a lawsuit against major manufacturers such as Smith & Wesson, Beretta USA Corp, Glock, and Hi-Point, as well as against major sellers of crime guns in and around the city , for their complicity in contributing to the public safety risk caused by the availability of cheap firearms.


The complaint alleges that defendants design, manufacture, distribute, and sell thousands of handguns in an illegal and negligent manner, and that it is foreseeable that those practices will supply guns to criminals and other prohibited persons for use in the commission of crimes. It also argues that the defendants exploit, rely on, and help maintain an active illegal secondary market in handguns.

The City argues that these policies have caused a public health nuisance in the city--one which costs the taxpayers millions of dollars in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes, and for victim emergency services and support. The cost to the city of Gary, of course, is not only an incredibly high toll financially, but also in human life. At the time of filing, the most recent data (for 1997 & 1998) showed that there were not only more than 400 firearm assaults and 400 firearm robberies for both years, but also 70 handgun murders in 1997.

The City sued these dealers, distributors, and manufacturers for public nuisance, negligent distribution and marketing, and negligent design practices. Read a copy of the amended complaint filed here.

In 2003, the Supreme Court of Indiana unanimously upheld the City's claims. However, the gun industry succeeded in passing PLCAA, a federal law that gave them special protections. In the aftermath, defendants moved to dismiss the case again. In 2007, the Court of Appeals of Indiana held that PLCAA did not bar the case. In November 2015, after losing motion after motion, the gun makers again attempted to dismiss the case, this time arguing that an Indiana statute has retroactively immunized them. A hearing will be held on this motion.

A team from The Brady Center is representing the City of Gary, along with Michael Tolbert of Tolbert & Tolbert, LLC of Gary, Indiana.