Source: Standard-Times (MA)
Pubdate: Monday 22 June 1998 
Author:  Paul Shepard, Associated Press writer


RENO, Nev. -- Nothing like a spate of school shootings to draw the
nation's sights on guns.

It's no different at the U.S. Conference of Mayors' annual meeting,
where firearms were a hot topic last week. True, most of the campus
incidents occurred in small towns. But they served to focus the
big-city mayors' attention on the deadly cocktail plaguing many of
them: youth gangs, and the ease with which they can obtain firearms.

That doesn't mean, however, that they formed a consensus on how to
deal with crime and guns in the hands of children.

Some mayors -- Marc Morial of New Orleans, for instance -- favor suing
makers of assault weapons, action modeled after lawsuits filed against
the tobacco industry.

"It would be a product liability issue, because some of the guns that
are being sold are unreasonably dangerous," Morial said.

While admitting even winning suits against gun makers might not stop
children from obtaining handguns from relatives, which was the case in
several of the school shootings, it would help "reduce the climate of
death and fear in our cities," Morial said.

"Drugs, military-styled weapons and gangs are the recipe for urban
violence," he said. "If we can eliminate one of those factors, we'll
all be better off."

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley agreed that suits against gun makers
could yield good results, but he warned any legislation must be
narrowly tailored. He said the National Rifle Association, the gun
lobby, must not be involved.

"We can't attack all guns, and we have to leave the NRA out of it,"
Daley said. "We would have to identify the domestic and foreign
manufacturers and hold them accountable."

No other mayor has taken so many high-profiled steps to stem their
cities' gun violence as Philadelphia's Edward Rendell.

In 1994, Rendell appointed a handgun violence committee to check the
flow of weapons onto Philadelphia streets. More recently, he appointed
Deputy Mayor Richard Zapille as "the gun czar" to crack down on the
number of guns entering the city.

Rendell then threatened to sue gun manufacturers to retrieve some of
the money city health care facilities spend on victims of gunshot wounds.

The Philadelphia mayor now has created a task force of mayors
including Clarence Harmon of St. Louis and Scott King of Gary, Ind.,
to explore with gun makers how to reduce violence and keep firearms
away from kids.

"We are looking more towards getting some voluntary action from the
gun industry, because a suit is a 10-year-down-the-road project,"
Rendell said. "Lawsuits are still an option, but we are going to give
the task force about six months and see where it takes us.

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