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CNN Today

Gun Industry Takes Aim at HUD Secretary Cuomo, So-Called Commercial 'Code of Conduct'

Aired April 26, 2000 - 2:09 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The gun industry is taking aim at one federal cabinet official, two states attorneys general and several city officials in a legal counterattack against gun control forces. Now, the group of gun makers and sport-shooting advocates suing are taking aim at Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo and more than a dozen other officials. They are accused of trying to freeze out gun manufacturers who don't adopt a so-called "code of conduct" preventing them from selling their products to government agencies.

Now, the people behind the lawsuit say it's about commerce, not guns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB DELFAY, PRES., NATL. SHOOTING SPORTS FOUNDATION: No business or enterprise is safe if we allow executive department officials to ignore the elected legislatures and enact their own laws and regulations through intimidation and litigation. Whatever you may think about guns, all Americans should be deeply concerned about this illegal and unconstitutional process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATERS: Delfay called the actions of Cuomo and others "financial extortion" -- his words. Last month, gunmaker Smith & Wesson broke ranks with most manufacturers by agreeing to work with the government on safety issues. Smith & Wesson is not a part of this lawsuit.

Let's check in with CNN legal analyst Roger Cossack to get a better idea of what's going on here. The gunmakers are calling this a politically motivated scheme by the individuals mentioned in the lawsuit that -- and that they're overstepping their bounds. What do you make of it?

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, here's what they're saying. They're saying -- they these -- they sued Secretary Cuomo and others saying that it's an illegal restraint of trade. And they're saying it's a conspiracy to restrain trade. What they're saying is that Cuomo and others have this national code of conduct, if you will, and that all gun manufacturers who don't follow this national code of conduct, they should not be able to sell their weapons to police agencies across the country. And what the complainants and -- what the gun agencies or the gun people are saying is, look, that's not a fair way to do business. It's restraining my trade. And if you're going to have these kinds of codes, then they should be passed by state legislatures, by municipalities, by elected representatives, but you can't just have a secretary from the -- Secretary Cuomo coming out and saying, no, unless you follow our principles, then you can't sell your guns to police agencies. And they say that restrains trade and they do it illegally.

WATERS: What are these principles that are the basis of the lawsuit?

COSSACK: Well, Lou, it has to do with gun locks. It has to do with this national code of safety, having to do with how the guns are manufactured, whether or not they come with a certain kind of lock, whether or not they have other safety features built into the weapons, some of which -- many of which the gun manufacturers don't believe are necessary, or believe that they already have in place the kind of safety equipment that's necessary already.

WATERS: How would you expect not only the HUD secretary, Cuomo, but the attorneys general and mayors and other officials to respond to this?

COSSACK: Well, I think they will come back and say they have the right to pass these regulations and they have the right to enforce these regulations and they have the right to come out and -- to protect the public, that, in fact, this -- these kinds of regulations are necessary to protect the public. This is part of the administration's ongoing program and plan to at least what they consider to be -- to improve gun safety.

So I think they will come back and say, look, this isn't a commerce issue, this is a safety issue.

WATERS: Thanks, Roger.

And we'll check directly with the attorney general from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, at the half hour and find out his reaction to this lawsuit today.

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