City of Gary v. Smith & Wesson
Victory in Indiana Supreme Court Holding Gun Industry Accountable for Negligent Sales
The City of Gary is less than an hour’s drive from Chicago. Both Gary and Chicago suffer from an unusually high level of violent gun crime. In August 1999, the City of Gary — with the assistance of Brady attorneys and Michael Tolbert of Tolbert & Tolbert, LLC — brought a lawsuit against major gun manufacturers such as Smith & Wesson, Beretta USA Corp, Glock, and Hi-Point, as well as 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.
In the late 1990s, the Brady legal team developed a nationwide strategy to hold irresponsible members of the firearms industry accountable for supplying — and profiting from — the criminal gun market through negligent marketing and sales practices. City of Gary v. Smith & Wesson is Brady’s last surviving city lawsuit.
The City of Gary alleges that defendants design, manufacture, distribute, and sell thousands of handguns in an illegal and negligent manner, and that it is foreseeable that such practices will supply guns to dangerous persons for use in the commission of crimes. The complaint also alleges that defendants exploit, rely on, and help maintain an active illegal black market in handguns.
The City of Gary argues that these policies have caused a public health nuisance, which costs hundreds of human lives and millions of dollars in taxpayer money to investigate and prosecute these crimes. Defendants moved to dismiss, but in 2003, the Supreme Court of Indiana unanimously upheld the City’s claims. This set important precedent for cities nationwide, giving them the ability to sue for injunctive relief and money damages for the harm caused by unlawful marketing and distribution of handguns.