Sunday, October 10, 1999 Published at 22:04 GMT 23:04 UK
Colt 'to quit handgun market'
The right to bear arms is enshrined in the US Constitution
One of the oldest names in the United States arms industry, Colt, is reported to be planning to withdraw from the consumer gun market because of the threat of law suits.
Newsweek magazine's Monday edition says that Colt would virtually withdraw from this part of the firearms business by the end of October.
"We have to focus on what we know we can make money on, without taking that risk," a Colt executive was quoted as saying.
"It's extremely painful when you have to withdraw from a business for irrational reasons."
Legal challenge mounts
So far, 29 US cities have begun legal action against the industry.
According to the magazine, Colt has decided to pull out of the handgun business because the company is having trouble paying its dealers and does not want to face possible costly lawsuits.
Colt was among eight firms named in a lawsuit filed last month by the city of Wilmington, Delaware.
Sam Colt's invention
In the past two years, Colt has received several significant government contracts, including an order for more than 32,000 M-16 rifles.
A recently established subsidiary, iColt, is planning next year to market a "smart gun" that can only be fired by the gun's owner.
Gun manufacturers have argued in the many cases they have faced that they are not responsible for what consumers do with their products.
The tobacco companies used a similar argument when individual states sued them for the costs of treating smoking-related diseases.
Those law suits resulted in a $206bn settlement against the industry last year.