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Legal exerts to discuss guns and liability (Released: 2/23/00)

by Allison Thompson, Office of University Communications

STORRS, Conn. -- Each year, American cities spend millions of dollars paying for the costs associated with gun violence. Should gun manufacturers and dealers be held responsible to reimburse the municipalities?

An increasing number of cities, including Chicago, New Orleans and Detroit, believe they should be and have filed landmark lawsuits to hold the companies accountable for street crime. At the same time, the National Rifle Association is promoting a ban on urban lawsuits in the nation's statehouses. Last year, 15 states enacted the ban into law. The N.R.A. expects another 15 to 20 to do so before the conclusion of the current legislative session.

On Friday, March 3, lawyers, professors and authors will discuss both sides of the hotly contested issue at "Guns and Liability in America," the Spring 2000 Connecticut Law Review Wiggin & Dana Symposium. The symposium will take place at 9 a.m. in the Starr Hall Reading Room at the University of Connecticut School of Law on Elizabeth Street.

Panelists include John R. Lott Jr., author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws; Anne Giddings Kimball, Smith & Wesson's attorney; and Robert R. Simpson, the lawyer representing Bridgeport, Conn., in its lawsuit against the gun industry.

The issue of gun liability will continue to garner national attention as politicians respond to the public's outcry for increased legislation, said James Gwinn, symposium editor for the Connecticut Law Review. While the outcome of actions such as the N.R.A.'s push for the l awsuit ban and a judge's recent decision to throw out half of Chicago's lawsuit against gun dealers and manufacturers is not clear, it's apparent that the issue of gun liability will remain at the forefront.

"What is certain about the competing questions is the fact that compensation for injuries caused by potentially harmful products is going to continue to confront us for many years," Gwinn says.

The impact of urban lawsuits and proposed gun legislation is particularly powerful in states such as Connecticut, where gun manufacturing is a large part of the economy.

"The Law Review has selected the topic not only for the complex legal theories that it raises, but also because of the regional impact that firearms manufacturing plays in the northeastern United States," Gwinn says.

Spring 2000 Connecticut Law Review Wiggin & Dana Symposium

8:15 a.m. Breakfast and coffee with panelists

9:00 a.m. Welcome by Hugh Macgill, dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law

Introduction by James W. Gwinn, symposium editor, Connecticut Law Review

9:15 a.m. Introduction by Jeremy G. Zimmerman, moderator and attorney at Wiggin & Dana

9:30 a.m. "Public Safety and Public Nuisance: The Origin of the City Handgun Cases and the Law of Public Nuisance"

David Kairys, professor at the Temple University School of Law

10:00 a.m. "Armed and Dangerous: Tort Liability for the Negligent Storage of Firearms"

Andrew J. McClurg, visiting professor at Wake Forest University School of Law

10:30 a.m. Break

10:45 a.m. "Lawsuits Against the Gun Industry: A Comparative Institutional Analysis"

Timothy D. Lytton, associate professor at New York Law School

11:15 a.m. "Will the Suits Against Gun Makers Save Lives?"

John R. Lott, Jr., research affiliate at Yale Law School

11:45 a.m. Question and Answer Session

12:15 p.m. Lunch

1:25 p.m. Introduction by David Kairys, moderator and panelist

1:30 p.m. "Municipal Firearms Suits: Ill-Conceived from Any Angle"

Anne Giddings Kimball, partner with Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon

2:00 p.m. "Defendant Class Actions: The Ultimate Weapon Against the Gun Industry"

Robert R. Simpson, partner with Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C.

2:30 p.m. Break

2:45 p.m. "Gun Control: The Intersection of Constitutional and Tort Law"

Jerry Phillips, W.P. Toms Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee College of Law

3:15 p.m. "Gun Liability and Societal Values"

Carl T. Bogus, associate professor at Roger Williams University School of Law

3:45 p.m. "Is Fault Enough: The Consequences of Liability without Cause"

Anthony J. Sebok, professor at Brooklyn Law School

4:15 p.m. Question and Answer Session

4:45 p.m. Close