Firearms have a long and illustrious history in this country. Two recent New York appellate court decisions add their own color to this history.
In New York City, a former NYPD detective accidentally shot himself in the knee at a precinct station house. The detective had leaned back in a swivel chair at the station house when he tried to place a fellow officer's gun in the fellow officer's waistband. The swivel chair fell back and the detective accidentally pulled the trigger of the gun, discharging a round into the detective's own knee. The detective sued the City of New York for failing to provide a place of employment free from hazards and a jury awarded him $5 million in damages. On appeal, however, the judgment was reversed and verdict set aside. The appellate court found no evidence that, prior to the accident the City had any knowledge that the swivel chair was defective. Thus, the appellate court ruled that the evidence was insufficient to establish the City's liability under New York's workplace safety law.
In a second case, an appellate court in Albany reversed a trial judge who had declared a mistrial when, in the judge's view, the attorney for the defendant had excluded hunters from the jury panel. The judge was of the opinion that licensed hunters were a class entitled to constitutional civil rights protection because, the judge reasoned, hunters are protected by the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. The appellate court disagreed. "Unlike racial or ethnic minorities and women," the appellate court said, "there has been no showing that hunters have faced a history of prejudice, exclusion, invidious discrimination or stereotypes." The appellate court explained that "the fact that hunters may exercise their Second Amendment right . . . does not morph them into a cognizable group for equal protection purposes."
Firearms-never a dull moment!