The city of Buffalo, New York, has filed a lawsuit in state court against firearms manufacturers and distributors, as well as ghost firearms companies, for their alleged fueling of violence.
Mayor Byron Brown announced the lawsuit on Dec. 20, which he said was the first of its kind. It was filed in state Supreme Court.
“Members of our community have suffered too much and for too long from gun violence. We must do everything we can to decrease gun violence. Enabling the possession of illegal guns destroys lives and deeply effects our neighborhoods, especially in Black and Brown communities. I am proud to stand up to the gun industry and fight for the safety of people living, working, and visiting the City of Buffalo,” said Brown in a statement.
The lawsuit lists defendants including Smith & Wesson Brands Inc., Beretta USA Corp., Bushmaster Firearms Industries Inc., Colt’s Manufacturing Co. LLC, and Glock Inc., as well as several ghost gun manufacturers including Polymer 80 and Arm or Ally.
Gun Makers Accused of Being a ‘Public Nuisance’
The complaint (pdf) claims that the conduct of gun manufacturers and distributors has created, contributed to, and maintained the “public nuisance” of unlawful possession, transportation, and disposition of firearms and their use in crimes.
This, the lawsuit claims, is being done through marketing that emphasizes the high capacity and ease of concealing their products, which plaintiffs say “appeals to prospective purchasers with criminal intent.”
It is also being done by the makers deliberately supplying more guns than needed in the legitimate market in order to induce sales, not training dealers to avoid straw sales and other illegal transactions, and failing to terminate contracts with distributors who sell to dealers with disproportionately high volumes of guns traced to crime scenes, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages and asks the court to direct the gun makers and distributors to “endow an abatement fund with sufficient capital to eliminate the public nuisance they are responsible for creating, exacerbating, and/or perpetuating.” It also seeks punitive damages.
Brown, in announcing the lawsuit on Tuesday, pointed to rising violence in Buffalo and across the country, noting that despite the city taking actions to curb such violence, officials are still seeing illegally possessed guns getting into the wrong hands.
Violence in Buffalo on the Rise
According to the mayor’s office, violence in Buffalo increased in 2020 and has continued to do so through 2021 and 2022.
During the initial year of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were 355 deaths or injuries from shootings in Buffalo, according to the mayor, with that figure rising in the first two months of 2021 by more than 140 percent compared to the same period a year prior. More recently, 10 people were killed and three were wounded in a mass shooting at the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo.
Bushmaster said in a statement that it had not yet fully reviewed the lawsuit but that the claims made within it appeared to be “false.”
The Epoch Times has contacted the other companies listed in the lawsuit for comment.
Buffalo’s lawsuit is the first of its kind under a 2021 New York law that allows lawsuits against gun manufacturers and sellers for creating a “public nuisance” through their business practices.
“We have state public nuisance laws that we are empowered to enforce, and I intend on doing all that I can as Mayor to protect people and prevent the loss of lives resulting from gun violence. The conduct of certain gun manufacturers has unreasonably interfered with the public’s right to use open space free from fear,” said Brown.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James joined similar litigation (pdf) in August against Glock following a shooting on the New York City subway.
Reuters contributed to this report.