11 May 2008

Constitution Irrelevant in New York City Firearms Suit

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Mayor Bloomberg’s attorneys argue in their brief, and the Second Amendment may wind up excluded, being traded for a similar gag order on references to the National Rifle Association, the New York Sun reports.

Lawyers for Mayor Bloomberg are asking a judge to ban any reference to the Second Amendment during the upcoming trial of a gun shop owner who was sued by the city. While trials are often tightly choreographed, with lawyers routinely instructed to not tell certain facts to a jury, a gag order on a section of the Constitution would be an oddity.

“Apparently Mayor Bloomberg has a problem with both the First and the Second amendments,” Lawrence Keane, the general counsel of a firearms industry association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said.

The trial, set to begin May 27, involves a Georgia gun shop, Adventure Outdoors, which the city alleges is responsible for a disproportionate number of the firearms recovered from criminals in New York City. The gun store’s owner, Jay Wallace, says his store abides by Georgia and federal regulations and takes steps to avoid selling firearms to gun traffickers. Mr. Wallace’s store is one of 27 out-of-state gun shops sued by New York City, and the first to go to trial.

City lawyers, in a motion filed Tuesday, asked the judge, Jack Weinstein of U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, to preclude the store’s lawyers from arguing that the suit infringed on any Second Amendment rights belonging to the gun store or its customers. In the motion, the lawyer for the city, Eric Proshansky, is also seeking a ban on “any references” to the amendment.

“Any references by counsel to the Second Amendment or analogous state constitutional provisions are likewise irrelevant,” the brief states. …

Of the city’s recent motion to preclude mention of the Second Amendment, a lawyer for Adventure Outdoors, John Renzulli, said, “If you can’t discuss the Bill of Rights in a court of law, where should we discuss these issues? Should we reserve it for the tavern?”

Mr. Renzulli said the city’s lawsuit did implicate the Second Amendment: “The politics involved here is whether the city has the power to go into another state and control the lawful sale of firearms.”

Still, Mr. Renzulli said he did not plan to oppose the city’s request regarding references to the Second Amendment. Mr. Renzulli, who has defended suits against the gun industry in Judge Weinstein’s courtroom before, said that in the past the defense has struck a deal with the plaintiffs on the matter: Lawyers for the gun industry won’t mention the Bill of Rights to the jury, if the plaintiffs don’t mention the National Rifle Association.

“We usually say we’re not talking about the Second Amendment and you’re not talking about the NRA as a huge lobbying group that controls the legislature,” Mr. Renzulli said.

He said he expected a similar agreement to be struck in the Adventure Outdoors case.

The Sun article fails to note that care had to have been taken to assure that this suit will be coming up before Judge Jack B. Weinstein, an activist leftist appointed to the bench by Lyndon Johnson, who routinely makes headlines with rulings favoring this sort of politically-motivated litigation.

Adventure Outdoors needs a better attorney. How can anyone be properly represented in a lawsuit involving firearms who thinks there is some kind of stigma attached to the National Rifle Association?

Hat tip to Walter Olson.

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