On target with gun suit

NAACP plan: Seeking solutions, not money, civil rights group has a case against gun trade.

July 14, 1999

LAWSUITS claiming injury usually seek financial compensation. But a suit against gun manufacturers, dealers and importers being prepared by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People won't seek a dime. Instead, it will demand policy changes designed to curb the devastation of gun violence that disproportionately ruins African-American lives.

The NAACP deserves credit for picking up the ball that Congress dropped on gun legislation in the aftermath of the Littleton tragedy and a school shooting in Georgia. Those tragedies, as well as the racist shooting rampage of Benjamin Nathaniel Smith July 4th Day weekend, should drive home the obvious point that guns are too easy to obtain in this country.

Smith and the shooters in Littleton, the former after being properly rejected by a licensed gun dealer. And the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms recently found that 51 percent of guns used in crimes by people ages 18 to 24 were obtained illegally from straw purchasers.

At least 10 cities and Wayne County, Mich., have sued the gun industry, claiming that manufacturers negligently saturated the market with their products, putting more handguns into circulation than legitimate gun purchasers can reasonably buy. The suits claim the excess guns end up on the black market.

The NAACP suit will seek to require manufacturers to improve monitoring of how guns are distributed. It will also seek to prohibit handguns sales anywhere but licensed gun shops, limit purchases to one per customer per month and require a mechanism so that investigators can track the origins of handguns used in crimes.

Punishing the gun industry financially could force it to change its ways, but the NAACP has chosen another course. If it succeeds, the compensation for pvictims and beleaguered communities would come in another, even more valuble form.

Pub Date: 7/14/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.