Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley was host Thursday to officials from 15 cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to discuss litigation against the gun industry to stop street violence.
Representatives from four cities pledged to sue and officials from five others said they're leaning that way. Daley said he is encouraging more lawsuits.
But he stopped short of saying he's building a strategy to attack the industry from all sides and force a settlement like that in the landmark tobacco industry lawsuit -- $206 billion to be paid to 46 states.
"This is just the beginning," Daley said in a news conference after meeting behind closed doors with officials from Miami to Portland, Ore. and from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco.
"You're going to see individuals, you're going to see not-for-profits, governments cities, counties and states filing suit," Daley said. "This issue is being discussed across America."
In October, New Orleans sued 15 gun manufacturers as well as trade associations and pawnshops, claiming the firearms violate product-safety laws and are dangerously accessible to children and other unauthorized users.
Chicago filed a $433 million lawsuit in November. It names as defendants 12 suburban gun dealers and two dozen manufacturers and distributors.
The city, which bans the sale of guns, claims handguns are a public nuisance and that the sellers know they are going to gang members and other criminals.
"We hold polluters responsible for destroying the environment. We hold liquor stores responsible for selling to minors. We need to hold the gun industry responsible for the direct cost impact upon us," Daley told the assembly.
Bridgeport, Conn., Mayor Joseph P. Ganim told his colleagues he announced this week he will sue gun manufacturers. Miami, Atlanta and San Francisco will soon follow. Officials from Newark, Portland, St. Louis, Gary, Ind. and Tampa, Fla.., say they're leaning strongly in the same direction.
No city has as strong an anti-gun ordinance as Chicago's, so they might have a tougher problem claiming guns are a public nuisance, officials said. They might have to take New Orleans' tack, which Mayor Marc Morial said was inspired in part by the huge health-care costs guns extol.
Morial said in most cases, gunshot victims don't have health insurance costing taxpayers $14,000 for each hospital visit. Nationwide, it's $4 billion a year, he said.
He likened the current state of gun distribution to the auto industry producing cars that have no locks and that children could start with the touch of a button.