February 20, 2024

Bill narrowly clears Senate committee to kill Gary lawsuit against gun manufacturers, sellers

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The city of Gary's lawsuit against gun manufacturers and sellers stretches back to 1999. - FILE PHOTO: Justin Hicks/IPB News

The city of Gary's lawsuit against gun manufacturers and sellers stretches back to 1999.

FILE PHOTO: Justin Hicks/IPB News

Cities and towns in Indiana will be banned from suing gun manufacturers and sellers — even if they do something illegal — under a bill narrowly approved by a Senate committee Tuesday.

Indiana Republicans backing HB 1235 want to kill a lawsuit by the city of Gary against gun makers and shops.

Gary Mayor Eddie Melton said that lawsuit, which goes back a quarter of a century, alleges that the makers and sellers contributed to the city’s gun violence epidemic.

“I’m here asking you not to strip Gary and every other political subdivision in our state from the right to seek justice,” Melton said.

Under the bill, only the state attorney general could bring suit against gun manufacturers and sellers. The measure is retroactive to Aug. 27, 1999, three days before Gary filed its lawsuit. Corrine Youngs, representing Attorney General Todd Rokita, said that’s where that power should lie.

“Rather than a slew of municipalities filing various lawsuits on what they perceive based on their own ideological or political preference,” Youngs said.

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Testimony during committee indicated that Rokita has refused to ever bring a lawsuit against the gun industry, including in a heated back-and-forth between Youngs and Sen. Rodney Pol, Jr. (D-Chesterton).

“I am not going to make a statement about potential litigation I have no idea, potential cases, controversy I have no idea about,” Youngs said.

“But the attorney general, specifically, has stated that he would never hold them accountable — not on his watch or of his predecessors or his successors,” Pol said.

“Well, then his statement speaks for himself, then,” Youngs said.

The Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee approved the bill 5-3, with Sen. Sue Glick (R-LaGrange) joining Democrats in opposition.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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