Jury: Gun Industry Not Cause of Violence
By TOM HAYS
YORK (AP) - Rejecting a lawsuit brought by the
NAACP, a federal jury Wednesday cleared
45 gun manufacturers and distributors of allegations their
marketing practices have stoked violence in black and Hispanic
The jury deliberated
for five days before reaching its verdict in the closely
watched case that now goes to the judge for a final decision.
The panel was unable to reach a verdict regarding 23 other
chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, called
the ruling "common sense" and said the lawsuit
was "aimed at bankrupting a law-abiding American industry
by holding them liable for the actions of criminals."
the president of the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People, said he was disappointed by the jury's
In an unusual
ruling, U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein decided ahead
of time the jury would play only an advisory role and that
he will make the final decision in the case. Both sides
will submit written arguments interpreting the jury's verdict
within 30 days.
claimed the firearms industry knew corrupt dealers were
supplying products to criminals in minority communities
and did nothing to stop it.
monetary damages, the NAACP sought to force
distributors to restrict sales to dealers with storefront
outlets, prohibit sales to gun show dealers and limit individual
purchasers to one handgun a month.
and the gun industry argued it was unfair and illegal to
hold manufacturers liable for the criminal use of a legal
product. They also said that legislatures - not courts -
should set standards for sales.
wants to have someone selling to criminals," James
Dorr, attorney for Sturm, Ruger & Co., said during closing
arguments. "This industry certainly doesn't."
followed more than five weeks of testimony in the suit against
68 defendants, including Smith & Wesson Corp., Glock
Inc., Colt Manufacturing and other major gun makers and
built much of their case on previously sealed data - provided
by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms under court
order - detailing sales histories of weapons recovered at
crime scenes in New York state from 1996 to 2000.
An expert witness
testified that an analysis found 11 percent of handguns
sold in 1996 were used in rapes, robberies, assaults and
murders by 2000.
knew they were feeding a pool of illegal handguns and "purposely
turned their head away from the problem," NAACP
attorney Elisa Barnes told the jury. "They said, `It's
not our worry.'"
claimed the analysis was flawed. They said their own studies
found that most guns used by criminals come from a secondary
market of used or stolen guns.
more than two dozen cities, counties and states have sued
gun makers, many claiming the manufacturers allowed weapons
to reach criminals because of irresponsible marketing. Many
suits have been dismissed or dropped, but Congress is considering
legislation backed by the White House and the NRA to protect
gun makers and sellers from lawsuits arising from the criminal
or unlawful use of their products.
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