Mayors scale back gun lawsuit threats Leaders want industry to help create tougher laws

June 22, 1998|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

RENO, Nev. -- The U.S. Conference of Mayors backed off yesterday on recent hints that it might file a joint lawsuit against gun makers, and instead said mayors want to try working first with the firearms industry to pass tougher gun laws and curtail pro-gun advertising.

"We have agreed to hold in abeyance any thought of a lawsuit," said Mayor Edward Rendell of Philadelphia, who has taken the lead on the issue within the mayors' conference. "If there is going to be a lawsuit, it makes sense for hundreds of cities to join in that lawsuit, but then again, let's see where we're going."

The mayors' conference -- a powerful Washington-based lobby of 300 mayors -- came to the decision during its annual meeting in Reno.

The gun issue has escalated nationally in recent weeks with word that Philadelphia and Chicago were considering filing lawsuits against the gun industry.

In many respects, the steps contemplated by those cities borrowed a page from the aggressive stand many states took against the tobacco industry to seek reimbursement for tobacco-related health care costs.

Philadelphia's legal action would have sought financial repayment of police overtime, health care and other costs associated with firearm violence. Chicago's suit would have blocked the industry from distributing advertising that appeals to criminals, such as advertisements that praise a weapon's ability to ward off fingerprints.

With the release of this news, conference president Paul Helmke, mayor of Fort Wayne, Ind., said last week that the group might consider filing a lawsuit of its own, styled after the tobacco litigation by various states.

For now, the mayor's group will work with the gun industry through a task force assembled by the conference, Rendell said.

He said the mayors' lobby also is calling on the Atlanta-based American Shooting Sports Council, which represents the gun industry, to help:

End advertising that persuades people they need guns for safety in the home.

Support legislation like that already passed in Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina that prevents anyone from making mass purchases of guns.

Help develop ways to make more affordable technology that prevents anyone but the person fitted with a gun from using it.

Pub Date: 6/22/98

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