Philadelphia v. Beretta U.S.A., Corp., Browning, Inc., CIVIL ACTION NO. 2000-CV-2463 (E.D. Pa. 12/20/2000), CIVIL ACTION NO. 2000-CV-2463.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
Writing for the CourtSchiller
PartiesCITY OF PHILADELPHIA, GUARDIAN CIVIC LEAGUE OF PHILADELPHIA, ASPIRA, INC. OF PENNSYLVANIA, RESIDENTS ADVISORY BOARD, NORTHEAST HOME SCHOOL AND BOARD, and PHILADELPHIA CITIZENS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH, Plaintiffs; v. BERETTA U.S.A., CORP., BROWNING, INC., BRYCO ARMS, INC., COLT'S MANUFACTURING CO., GLOCK, INC., HARRINGTON & RICHARDSON, INC., INTERNATIONAL ARMAMENT INDUSTRIES, INC., KEL-TEC, CNC, LORCIN ENGINEERING CO., NAVEGAR, INC., PHOENIX/RAVEN ARMS, SMITH & WESSON CORP., STURM, RUGER & CO., and TAURUS INTERNATIONAL FIREARMS, ET AL., Defendants.
Decision Date20 December 2000
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 2000-CV-2463.

Page 1

CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, GUARDIAN CIVIC LEAGUE OF PHILADELPHIA, ASPIRA, INC. OF PENNSYLVANIA, RESIDENTS ADVISORY BOARD, NORTHEAST HOME SCHOOL AND BOARD, and PHILADELPHIA CITIZENS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH, Plaintiffs;
v.
BERETTA U.S.A., CORP., BROWNING, INC., BRYCO ARMS, INC., COLT'S MANUFACTURING CO., GLOCK, INC., HARRINGTON & RICHARDSON, INC., INTERNATIONAL ARMAMENT INDUSTRIES, INC., KEL-TEC, CNC, LORCIN ENGINEERING CO., NAVEGAR, INC., PHOENIX/RAVEN ARMS, SMITH & WESSON CORP., STURM, RUGER & CO., and TAURUS INTERNATIONAL FIREARMS, ET AL., Defendants.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 2000-CV-2463.
United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
December 20, 2000.

Richard Feder, City of Philadelphia Law Dept., Philadelphia, PA, Richard S. Lewis, Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld and Toll, Washington, DC, Marcia Berman, Chief Deputy City Solicitor, Philadelphia, PA, Michael J. Boni, Kohn, Swift & Graf, P.C., Philadelphia, PA, Kenneth I. Trujillo, City Solicitor, City Law Dept., Philadelphia, PA, for City of Philadelphia.

Richard S. Lewis, Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld and Toll, Washington, DC, Michael J. Boni, Kohn, Swift & Graf, P.C., Philadelphia, PA, Kenneth I. Trujillo, City Solicitor, City Law Dept., Philadelphia, PA, for Guardian Civic League of Philadelphia, Aspira, Inc. of Pennsylvania, Residents Advisory Bd., Northeast Home and School, Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth.

Jennifer Dufault James, Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Philadelphia, PA, Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, Lawrence S. Greenwald, Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander, LLC, Baltimore, MD, for Beretta U.S.A. Corp.

Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, Eric A. Weiss, Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, Philadelphia, PA, for Browning Inc.

Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, Debra Schwaderer Dunne, Thorp Reed & Armstron, LLP, Philadelphia, PA, for Bryco Arms, Inc.

John E. Iole, Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, Pittsburgh, PA, Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, Thomas E. Fennell, Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, Dallas, TX, Michael L. Rice, Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, Dallas, TX, for Colt's Manufacturing Co., Inc.

Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, Eric A. Weiss, Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, Philadelphia, PA, John F. Renzulli, Renzulli & Rutherford, L.L.P., New York, NY, for Glock, Inc.

Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, for Harrington & Richardson, Inc., Intern. Armament Corp., Lorcin Engineering Co., Inc., Navegar, Inc., Phoenix/Raven Arms, Taurus Intern. Firearms.

Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, Eric Weiss, Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, Philadelphia, PA, for Kel-Tec CNC.

Robert C. Heim, Dechert, Price & Rhoads, Philadelphia, PA, Gary R. Long, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, LLP, Kansas City, MO, Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, George M. Gowen, III, Dechert Price & Rhoads, Philadelphia, PA, Jeffrey S. Nelson, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, LLP, Kansas City, MO, for Smith & Wesson Corp., Inc.

Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, James P. Dorr, Wildman, Harrold, Allen and Dixon, Chicago, IL, Robert N. Spinelli, Kelley, Jasons, McGuire & Spinelli, Philadelphia, PA, for Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.

OPINION

SCHILLER, Judge.


INTRODUCTION

The instant action is a high profile case brought by the City of Philadelphia and certain civic organizations against the gun industry. At the outset, I caution the public to appreciate what this case is not about, just as we must strive to understand what this case truly concerns. Primarily, this case is not about the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. Rather, this case involves the plaintiffs' claims that the gun industry's methods for distributing guns are negligent and a public nuisance.

The plaintiffs originally filed their complaint in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas for the County of Philadelphia. Beretta U.S.A. Corp., acting on behalf of itself and other gun manufacturers,1 removed the action to this Court and filed a motion to dismiss, challenging (1) the City's power to sue under state law; (2) the standing of the various civic organizations to bring suit; (3) the plaintiffs' ability to state a cause of action for public nuisance; or (4) on negligence grounds. I have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 (1993) (removal) and 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (1993) (diversity of citizenship). Having reviewed the complaint, the motion to dismiss, the scholarly briefs, arguments before this Court by all parties, and the applicable law, I find the plaintiffs lack standing and cannot recover under any legal theory asserted. Therefore, I am dismissing this case.

LEGAL STANDARD FOR CONSIDERING A MOTION TO DISMISS

In considering defendants' motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may only look to the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached thereto, any reasonable inferences therefrom, and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993); Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d. Cir. 1988). The court must view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Tunnell v. Wiley, 514 F.2d 971, 975 n. 6 (3d Cir. 1975); Rothman v. Specialty Care Network, Inc., No. Civ. A. 00-2445, 2000 WL1470221 at *3 (E.D.Pa. Oct. 3, 2000), and take well pleaded allegations as true. See Colburn v. Upper Darby Township, 838 F.2d 663, 664-65 (3d Cir. 1988). However, "a court need not credit a complaint's `bald assertions' or "legal conclusions.'" Pennsylvania v. Rand Finan. Corp., No. Civ.A.99-4209, 2000 WL 1521589 at *2 (E.D.Pa. Oct. 3, 2000) (quoting Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)). When no set of facts could be proven which would guarantee a right to relief, the case must be dismissed. See Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1391 (3d Cir. 1993).

A similar standard is used when ruling on a motion to dismiss for lack of standing. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 503 (1975). A motion challenging standing implicates the court's jurisdiction, and falls under the rubric of Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). See Maio v. Aetna Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 482 n. 7 (3d Cir. 2000); Society Hill Towers Owners Ass'n v. Rendell, 210 F.3d 168, 175 (3d Cir. 2000). The court must accept all material allegations of the complaint as true, and construe facts in favor of the complaining party. See Warth, 422 U.S. at 503. In addition, a court may consider affidavits which support a finding of standing. See id.2

THE REGULATION OF FIREARMS

Before turning to the allegations of the complaint, it may be helpful to briefly summarize the federal and state laws regulating the sale and distribution of firearms in the United States and in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Gun manufacturers must be licensed by the federal government in order to produce, deal, and ship firearms in interstate commerce. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(1) (2000). Manufacturers may only sell to licensed importers, licensed dealers, or licensed collectors. See 18 U.S.C. § 922 (a)(2) (2000). Licensed dealers, in turn, may only sell to those who have been cleared by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). See 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(1) (2000). The law also establishes age limits for purchasers of guns and ammunition. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(b)(1) (2000). Additionally, licensees may not sell firearms to individuals who are felons, drug users, inmates of mental institutions, illegal aliens, subject to domestic restraining orders, or those convicted of crimes of domestic violence. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(1)-(9) (2000). Those individuals are also prohibited from possessing firearms which affect interstate commerce. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)-(9) (2000). No one is permitted to sell firearms to a juvenile. See 18 U.S.C. § 922 (x)(1) (2000). It is also unlawful for anyone to attempt to acquire a firearm by making a false statement.

The Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act supplements the federal scheme. See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6101 et seq. (West 2000) ("UFA"). This comprehensive statute, among other things, enables reputable prospective dealers to obtain licenses from the police for the sale of firearms to consumers, see UFA § 6113(a), forbids licensed dealers from violating any provision of the UFA, see UFA § 6113(a)(1), and requires dealers to keep written records for the sale of each firearm, see UFA § 6111, 6113(a)(2). Those seeking to purchase guns must undergo a background check by the Pennsylvania Police. See UFA § 6111. A sale under circumstances intended to provide a firearm to an individual ineligible to possess it constitutes a felony. See UFA § 6111(g)(2). With this background, I now turn to the allegations in the complaint.

FACTS ALLEGED IN THE COMPLAINT The City of Philadelphia and a number of civic organizations filed a 34-page complaint purporting to connect gun violence in the city to the defendant gun manufacturers. The City of Philadelphia ("City") sues both in its sovereign and in its "individual" capacities for, respectively, harm to its citizens and municipal costs related to gun violence. Cmplt. at ¶ 2. Joining Philadelphia as plaintiffs are ASPIRA, Inc., Guardian Civic League, Residents Advisory Board, Northeast Home and School, and Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth. Cmplt. at ¶¶ 3-7. I will refer to these five organizations collectively as the "organizational plaintiffs." The Guardian Civic League aims "to improve relations between the Philadelphia Police Department and minority communities, to recruit minority officers, and to work toward the elimination of racial discrimination."...

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