On April 3rd, Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), testified in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York that the proliferation of handguns that kills thousands of African Americans, particularly young people, is partly "the fault of the government for not enforcing existing laws and the fault of the gun industry for not self regulating the sale and distribution of handguns."
Mfume spoke during a historic lawsuit brought by the NAACP to make gun makers and wholesalers better regulate the sale and distribution of handguns. NAACP lawyers argued that industry leaders could track more accurately negligent gun distribution and illegal weapons used in crimes. The NAACP lawsuit does not seek monetary gain, but to hold the gun industry liable for the proliferation of guns supplied to the unlawful underground market. "We are trying through litigation to get gun makers to change the way they distribute and sell guns," Mfume said.
"Long before I got to the Association, I realized [the proliferation of illegal handguns] was a problem," Mfume said. He said that as a member of Congress and a Baltimore City Councilman, "I got tired of going to teenage funerals and consoling mothers whose children had been killed with a handgun."
Mfume said the "fear of violence and handguns is so high that people are afraid to come out and to organize" to rid the community of illegal handguns. He outlined in court the several programs run by the NAACP to dissuade young people from violence. This includes the "Stop the Violence, Start the Love" campaign that was started in New York City. He said 400 NAACP Youth Councils conduct programs aimed at conflict resolution without violence.
Mfume said outside of the courtroom that it is "disturbing that after three years of litigation, there are efforts in the Congress to make null and void what we're trying to do here today." He continued to urge Congress to reject H.R. 1036, a bill that aims to stop all pending legal action against the gun industry. "In pushing this bill just weeks before our trial was slated to begin, the gun lobby clearly placed the NAACP's legal efforts in its sights, but that is not going to stop us," said Mfume.
In 2000 alone, firearms killed more than 28,000 people in the United States. More than 10% of these people (3,012) were children.
Representing the NAACP is General Counsel Dennis Hayes, Deputy General Counsel Angela Ciccolo and attorney Elisa Barnes. Joining the NAACP in the lawsuit is the Educational Fund to End Handgun Violence, the Violence Policy Center and the Brady Center.
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