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Last Updated: Friday, 10 September, 2004, 06:42 GMT 07:42 UK
Gun firms pay out over US snipers
By Daniela Relph
BBC correspondent, Washington

Lee Boyd Malvo
Lee Boyd Malvo (pictured) and John Allen Muhammad have been found guilty of murder
Victims of the sniper shootings in Washington DC and their families have settled a lawsuit they brought against a gun company and a gun dealer.

They had sued the two companies for negligent distribution of weapons.

Lawyers representing the victims' families described the settlement as historic. They believe it could change practices across the firearms industry.

Bull's Eye Shooter Supply, from where the rifle used in the shootings was stolen, agreed to pay the families $2m.

The victims claimed that the firm's lax security lead to the gun's theft.

Bushmaster Firearms, who made the gun, settled on a half-a-million dollar payout.

The deal with Bushmaster is the first time a gun manufacturer in the United States has agreed to pay damages for negligent distribution of weapons.

The sniper shootings terrorised areas around Washington DC two years ago.

Ten people were shot dead with a Bushmaster rifle.

John Allen Muhammad and his teenage accomplice, Lee Malvo, have so far been found guilty on one count of murder.

Lawyers representing Bushmaster said they had decided to settle to avoid rising legal costs and stressed there was no admission of liability on their part.

But as part of the settlement, the company has agreed to educate its dealers on gun safety.


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