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New York attorney general joins suit against Glock over subway shooting

The office of Letitia James aims to defend the constitutionality of a 2021 business law statute that makes it easier to hold gun manufacturers liable when their weapons are used to commit crimes.

BROOKLYN (CN) — Planning to defend a gun control measure passed last year, New York Attorney General Letitia James joined a lawsuit Friday against the gunmaker Glock filed by one of the people wounded during the April 12 shooting at a New York City subway station. 

Ilene Steur was among the 10 people shot when a gunman set off two smoke canisters then opened fire during rush hour in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. Police believe the shooter, alleged to be Frank Robert James, used a Glock 9mm pistol that was later found in a bag near the scene. 

In a lawsuit filed May 31 in Brooklyn federal court, Steur accuses Glock of selling more firearms than a legitimate market could handle, feeding a secondary market, while touting high capacity and easily concealable weapons — thus attracting customers who intended to use the guns with “criminal intent.” 

Glock first lobbied police departments to upgrade their weapons to the manufacturer’s higher-capacity guns, the complaint says. Gaining credibility among law enforcement boosted sales to the public, and old weapons were then sold on the streets. 

As the complaint notes, Glock shows up in entertainment across the media: It’s used by police officers in "Law and Order." Bruce Willis has a Glock in the movie "Die Hard 2." And rappers like Tupac, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg all name-dropped the brand in music in the early 1990s. 

The complaint cites a 1980s campaign by advertiser Karl Walter as the start of the marketing efforts. Walter hosted dinners for gun retailers, brought them to an Atlanta strip club, and used “sex and models” to sway customers, according to the lawsuit.

“A buxom, scantily clad woman appeals to some customers,” Walter is said to have proclaimed during a 1989 meeting with sales representatives, and commented on the lack of federal gun laws passed in the wake of mass shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech. 

The gunmaker has, “like all Americans, become aware that mass shootings become a frightening yet predictable part of modern life,” the complaint reads, and knew that “as a consequence [of] selling Glock firearms to the civilian market, individuals unfit to operate these weapons gain access to them.”

Glock also failed to train dealers to avoid illegal sales or nix contracts with those whose sales could, at a disproportionate frequency, be traced to crime scenes, according to the 46-page complaint

In a court filing last month, Glock claimed it has immunity from the suit under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and that the state law it is accused of violating is unconstitutional since it attempts to override the federal law. 

The state attorney general’s office is responsible for enforcing the statute and asked to join the lawsuit to defend the law's constitutionality. A federal judge granted the request, which Glock did not oppose, on Friday night. 

Signed in July 2021 by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo, the business law statute aims to regulate gun sales, manufacturing and marketing, imposing civil liabilities on manufacturers for criminal acts involving their guns manufactured and sold out-of-state. 

Frank James bought the Glock 17 pistol legally in Ohio in 2011, according to the criminal complaint against him. In addition to the gun found near the scene, investigators seized an empty Glock handgun magazine from the home of the 62-year-old accused shooter. 

The day after the shooting, Frank James turned himself in after seeing his face on the news, and was arrested in Manhattan. However, the 62-year-old has pleaded not guilty to a terrorism charge. He is being held at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center and faces up to a life prison sentence. 

Glock joined other gunmakers and a national trade organization in a separate lawsuit in the Northern District of New York, also challenging the law’s constitutionality. It was dismissed in May. 

The company did not return a request for comment on Monday afternoon. 

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