Clinton Administration
Planning To Sue Gun Makers
By David Bloom - NBC NEWS
NEW ORLEANS - Arguing that gun violence at public housing projects is costing taxpayers too much, the Clinton administration is preparing to file a class-action lawsuit against gun manufacturers, sources told NBC News on Tuesday.
ENCOURAGED BY SUCCESSFUL lawsuits against cigarette makers, cities, counties and private organizations have been trying to use a similar strategy against gun manufacturers. The federal involvement is a major escalation of what promises to be a bitter battle.
The White House believes that the mere threat of a federal lawsuit will put tremendous pressure on the industry to crack down on disreputable gun dealers and curtail illegal gun sales.
Sources told NBC News that the Department of Housing and Urban Development would file suit on behalf of all of the federal public housing projects around the country early next year.
Officials of the public housing authority in New Orleans, home of the troubled Saint Bernard public housing project, said they would join the federal suit.
"I think in the long run it,s a good thing and I welcome it and I applaud it, New Orleans Mayor Mark Morial said. "I think the federal involvement is also a recognition that in these public housing neighborhoods, which are uniquely areas where the federal government is very involved, that gun safety can help save lives.
The gun industry is already under siege. New Orleans is one of 28 cities that has already filed suit, seeking to recover the costs of gun violence.
But the federal lawsuit would raise the stakes dramatically. White House aides admit their real aim in threatening a national, class-action lawsuit is to pressure gun manufacturers to settle the existing suits with the cities and agree to a code of conduct that would require the industry to:
* Crack down on gun sales to disreputable dealers. * Computerize gun inventories for easier tracking. * Manufacture safer guns. * Stop advertising a particular kind of gun that,s popular with criminals, which is marketed as fingerprint proof.
"Every year the residents of public housing see 10,000 gun crimes and the taxpayers shell out a billion dollars in security costs, Bruce Reed, a White House domestic policy adviser, said. "That,s wrong. We think the gun industry has a responsibility to change the way it does business.
But some Republicans accused the White House of trying to further politicize the issue of gun violence heading into next year,s elections. "I don,t believe the American people are looking for a solution that would clog our courts with more lawsuit abuse, said Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas.
A gun industry spokesperson on Tuesday called the federal government,s threat counterproductive.
Meanwhile, some gun owners are firing back against the cities and counties that have sued the industry that provides them with their firearms.
On Nov. 30, the Second Amendment Foundation, announced it had filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Mayors and some individual mayors alleging that they had engaged in "conspiracy to violate civil and constitutional rights and were attempting to create "an undue burden on lawful interstate commerce.
This from CNN. Same topic:
WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House is helping prepare a class-action suit against gun makers, alleging that guns and how they are marketed have contributed to violence in public housing projects, administration officials said Tuesday.
The class-action lawsuit by some or all of the nation's 3,100 local housing authorities would be patterned on suits filed against the industry by 29 cities and counties, the officials said.
Those suits claim that gun manufacturers have sold defective products or marketed them in ways that increase the likelihood that they will fall into the hands of criminals.
The new legal effort was made known Tuesday and was described by some officials as more of a threat aimed at bringing gun manufacturers to the negotiating table than an effort to take them to court.
The administration hopes the threat of a national lawsuit will force gun makers to agree to end practices such as marketing guns that are impervious to fingerprints.
A negotiated agreement would allow the administration and gun control advocates to claim a victory at a time when Congress has rejected writing into law new firearms restrictions wanted by President Clinton.
"The administration intends to work aggressively to ... try to work to reach a settlement with the industry," White House domestic policy adviser Bruce Reed said. "If settlement is not possible, then the public housing authorities are prepared to go forward with their suit."
Administration officials said the White House and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are helping prepare the suit even though the actual plaintiff would be independent local authorities that run federal housing programs.
The White House and HUD want gun makers to agree to a code of conduct that includes cracking down on disreputable gun dealers and making safer guns.
"The legal theory is the same as the cities have been pursuing _ the bottom line is the gun manufacturers have not been properly supervising their distribution channels," and otherwise failing to promote safety, a HUD official said.
"It's the traditional liability theory that is applied to every other product -- negligence and product liability," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official would not detail any previous outreach to gun makers but said new negotiations were planned.
"The administration and HUD is ready to sue, but our first priority is to change the practice of the industry. We think we should first sit down at the negotiating table," the HUD official said.
Some gun makers have declared bankruptcy in the wake of the suits by local governments and others have downsized their product lines and decreased advertising, according to a countersuit.
The suits have had mixed success in the courts. A judge dismissed Cincinnati's suit in October but another judge had allowed Atlanta's suit to proceed and ordered the industry to open its files.


This Site Served by TheHostPros