Washington -- Gun manufacturer Kahr Arms has agreed to pay nearly $600,000 to end a case filed by the Brady Center on behalf of families of a young father of two daughters who was killed and another man who was wounded with a handgun taken from Kahr’s factory by a drug-addicted employee.
The settlement is the largest damages payment ever by a gun manufacturer charged with negligence leading to the criminal use of a gun. The settlement is doubly significant, as it was made after enactment of “the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” a federal gun law that the gun industry contends shields it from most liability cases. By agreeing to the settlement, Kahr Arms averted a pending motion challenging the applicability and constitutionality of the Act.
“This settlement sends a strong signal to gun manufacturers nationwide that they will pay the consequences for their misconduct if they operate without regard for public safety,” said Daniel Vice, Senior Attorney of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and co-counsel in the case. “There is much more that gun companies can and must do to prevent the supply of guns to criminals.”
“The gun industry must take some responsibility for the tens of thousands of guns it recklessly supplies to the criminal market,” said Jonathan Lowy, Director of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project.
“This story is really about public safety,” said Brady Center Acting President Dennis Henigan. “As we witnessed this past weekend in Norway and across the United States, one gun in the wrong hands can do families, communities, and a nation irreparable harm. Thankfully, the courts have ruled repeatedly that victims in these cases have the right to a remedy.”
The family of Danny Guzman, who was shot and killed on Christmas Eve 1999 with a Kahr gun, charged that Kahr Arms negligently operated its manufacturing plant without security or inventory controls and failed to screen its employees for drug addiction or criminal background. The suit charged that the gun used to kill Danny Guzman was taken by Kahr employee Mark Cronin, who Kahr hired despite a public record of drug addiction, theft to support that addiction, alcohol abuse and violence, including several assault and battery charges. Cronin stated that he was able to take guns from the Kahr factory at will, before the guns had serial numbers stamped on them. At the time, Worcester Police Captain Paul F. Campbell called Kahr’s recordkeeping so “shoddy” that it was possible to remove weapons without detection.
Kahr Arms had moved to dismiss the case, arguing that the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” a federal law signed by President Bush in October 2005, bars such cases. In response to Kahr’s dismissal motion, Brady Center attorneys argued that the statute does not immunize gun companies, and is unconstitutional. Prior to enactment of the gun industry liability protection law, the court had ruled that the family’s claims are meritorious and should proceed to trial. The payment by Kahr Arms avoids a ruling on the pending motion challenging the constitutionality of the Act.
On December 24, 1999, Danny Guzman was shot and killed in front of a Worcester, Massachusetts nightclub in the 800 block of Main Street. Six days later, police recovered the murder weapon, a 9 mm Kahr Arms handgun without a serial number, behind an apartment building, near where Mr. Guzman was shot. The loaded gun had been found by a four-year-old child who lives in the building.
“Were it not for the courts, what institution in America would hold these gun manufacturers accountable? Not only are there no minimal federal standards for securing lethal weapons in a factory, there are no minimal federal standards for screening the backgrounds of prospective employees at these plants,” added Vice. “Absent strong gun laws, civil lawsuits, like these brought by the Brady Center's Legal Action Project, remain the only opportunity that victims have to receive justice and the most powerful incentive for gun manufacturers and sellers to act responsibly and in the interests of public safety.”
Kahr Arms’ CEO is Kook Jin Moon, son of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, leader of the Unification Church.
The payments by Kahr Arms were made as part of a settlement that ends the pending case and were approved by Judge Dennis J. Curran of the Worcester Superior Court in Massachusetts on July 7, 2011.
The Guzman family was represented by Jonathan Lowy and Daniel Vice of the Legal Action Project of the Brady Center, and Worcester, Massachusetts attorneys Hector E. Pineiro and Bob Beadle. The settlement also settles a case brought by Mr. Pineiro on behalf of Armando Maisonet, who was wounded in the shooting that killed Danny Guzman. The Brady Center’s Legal Action Project has long been a leader in efforts to hold irresponsible gun manufacturers and sellers legally accountable. Brady Center lawyers have won over $5 million in settlements for gun violence victims in cases against gun manufacturers and sellers.