- 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.
- CAN HELP SAVE LIVES
- 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
- * 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.
- THE COST TO TAXPAYERS
- "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
- 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
- "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
- 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.