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NAACP Raps Gun Makers, TV

The gun industry is bracing to be hit again, this time by the nation's oldest civil rights group, packing what it hopes is a powerful legal weapon, CBS News' Russ Mitchell reports.

Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP, told 2,700 NAACP members at the group's 90th annual convention, "The fact that illegal trafficking of firearms disproportionately affects minority communities in this country is indisputable."

Two weeks after a white supremacist -- using handguns he allegedly bought from an illegal dealer -- killed two minority men and injured nine others, the NAACP is filing a lawsuit against more than 100 handgun makers and distributors, saying illegal guns have turned America's cities into war zones.

"It's got to end," said Mfume. "The industry must be as responsible as any other industry. They must stop dumping handguns in oversaturated communities and markets because the obvious result is that those guns are not going to legally authorized gun dealers. They're getting in the hands of criminals for criminal use."

The NAACP suit is not asking for money. Instead it calls for a national gun tracing system, limiting the sale of handguns to licensed gun shops and allowing customers only one gun purchase per month.

The NRA calls the lawsuit "wrongheaded."

Mfume also lambasted the television industry. Calling the upcoming fall television lineup "a virtual whitewash in programming," the NAACP is pushing the four major television networks and advertisers to put more minorities on their shows.

He said the group is considering a suit against the networks charging they violate the Communication Act of 1934, which mandates the airwaves belong to the public.

The 26 new shows slated for the upcoming fall season have no minorities in starring or leading roles, Mfume said.

"This glaring omission is an outrage and a shameful display by network executives who are either clueless, careless or both," said Mfume. "We intend to make it clear that the frontier of television must reflect the multiethnic landscape of today's modern society."

The move to sue the gun industry puts the NAACP in league with New Orleans, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston and other cities, which have sued the firearms industry in hopes of curbing street and schoolyard violence.

The lawsuit will seek no monetary damages. Instead, it will seek injunctions to force gun makers to better monitor where guns are distributed and to limit multiple purchases by individuals.

Earlier this year, a federal jury in New York returned a $4 million verdict based upon a new strategy by plaintiffs that the industry's negligence in marketing and distribution allowed weapons to flow illegally to states with strict anti-gun laws.

The NAACP's intention to sue reflects a widespread frustration among policy-makers with gun proliferation and lethal shooting attacks in schools, most recently in Littleton, Colo., an Conyers, Ga.

Julian Bond, chairman of the board of the NAACP,
told CBS News: "The fellow who sold the gun to the man who killed two people last weekend in Indiana and Illinois bought 65 guns at one time. I mean, who needs 65 guns? We think these people know their guns are slipping into an illegal market, and we want it to stop," he said.

The NAACP is not seeking monetary damages "because we really want a change in the industry's behavior, and we didn't think monetary damages were a requirement for that," Bond explained.

©1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report