Home / News / GOP lawmakers slam Gary gun case – Chicago Tribune

GOP lawmakers slam Gary gun case – Chicago Tribune


When homicides in Gary reached epidemic levels in the late 1990s, the city responded by filing a lawsuit against the gun industry, claiming it was flooding the city with illegal guns.

The case, which spanned six Gary mayors and 25 years, continued through hearings, appeals and the state Supreme Court. He survived and entered the discovery phase in Lake Superior Court John Sedia’s Hammond courtroom.

He’s now running out of time as GOP lawmakers aim to kill him.

House Bill 1235 reaches back 25 years to retroactively end the lawsuit and declares that only the state can sue gun manufacturers.

The measure has been introduced to both chambers and Gov. Eric Holcomb is expected to sign it once a joint conference committee is authorized to consider the revisions. It may become law on July 1

There is little Democrats, in their extreme minorities in both chambers, can do.

State Sen. Rodney Pol, D-Chesterton, is also the Gary firm’s attorney and the lead attorney on the long-running case.

Pol said Thursday that Gary Mayor Eddie Melton, a former respected member of the state Senate, will make a final appeal to Holcomb.

“Local governments have the right to fight back against bad actors, and again, bad actors that they believe are harming their communities,” Melton said in his latest testimony against the bill sponsored by state Rep. Chris Jeter, R-Fishers.

GOP lawmakers argue the case has languished in the court system unresolved for decades. In 2015, a GOP senator called it a “stranded whale.”

Pol said it was the arms industry that submitted motion after motion to stop the case.

“They took away our ability to defend ourselves in a case that has been going on for 25 years,” Pol said. “We’re just trying to get through our day in court. “This shows how powerful the arms industry is.”

The lawsuit, filed in Gary in 1999 when Scott King was mayor, sued 11 gun manufacturers, one wholesaler and five retail gun shops for allegedly engaging in illegal activities, including purchasing straws, under the state’s nuisance law.

While defending its case, the municipality drew attention to 70 murders in 1997 and 54 murders in 1998. From 1997 to 2000, 764 recovered handguns were sold by dealers named as defendants.

Gary Democrats in the House also opposed passage of the bill.

“This bill is a targeted attack on a 20-year-old case… Although this case is from a city in Indiana, it has much broader applications,” said State Rep. Ragen Hatcher, D-Gary.

“It took decades of litigation to expose the dangerous marketing tactics employed by tobacco companies. “We can draw parallels between the Big Tobacco case and the Gary case to hold firearm manufacturers accountable for their irresponsible actions.”

State Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, said the case was successful in winning three appeals, allowing the case to move forward.

“The legislature has no room to intervene in such specific cases….

“What the gun industry did to Gary was a deceptive, deliberate, money-grabbing effort without regard for the lives destroyed…” Smith said.

Even if the bill is accepted, Pol does not lose hope.

“The city is tough. We don’t sleep like this,” he said.

“This bill does nothing to help any other community. This just upsets Gary.”

Carole Carlson is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.


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