U.S. News

Largest settlement against gun maker: gun control group

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A firearms maker has agreed to pay $600,000 to the family of a shooting victim in what a gun control group said on Tuesday was a record settlement in such a case.

A company employee with a history of assault and drug addiction stole the gun later used to kill a man, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, whose Legal Action Project in 2002 brought suit against Kahr Arms over the incident.

The settlement on behalf of the deceased Danny Guzman against Kahr Arms is the largest against a gun manufacturer for irresponsible conduct leading to criminal gun violence, the Center said at a news conference on Tuesday. It said the settlement will be paid to Guzman’s family.

A Kahr Arms official could not be reached immediately for comment on the case.

The announcement followed a shooting tragedy in Norway last week that left at least 76 people dead.

The Brady Center said the largest settlement involving a firearms maker in the past was its half-million dollar settlement against a manufacturer on behalf of the families of several victims of the Washington, D.C. area snipers in 2004.

“We have had a number of shocking reminders of the killing power of firearms,” said acting Brady Center President Dennis Henigan Tuesday.

“That death toll (in Norway) from gun violence on a single day was regarded as a historic event, but that was less than occurs in our country on a single day.”

Danny Nicacio, also known as Guzman, was shot and killed on December 24, 1999, with a 9mm handgun taken from a manufacturing plant in Worcester, Massachusetts, where Kahr Arms is based, according to the suit.

The complaint charges, “lack of theft prevention measures or employee background checks,” and “careless inventory tracking,” amounted to “gross negligence/negligent hiring and supervision” and wrongful death.

The Center’s Legal Action Project is attempting to implement a gun control legal strategy parallel to legislative reform, which Henigan said is often thwarted by powerful lobbying interests on behalf of the gun industry in Washington such as the National Rifle Association.

“The central rationale ... is to encourage gun companies to factor in the human cost,” he said.

The NRA did not have an immediate comment on the Brady Center announcement.

Kahr Arms had no metal detectors at entrances or exits to the Worcester facility and records show that in five years some 50 firearms disappeared from Kahr Arms plant, the Brady Center said.

Kahr Arms is an “award-winning manufacturer of defensive handguns,” according to its website, whose homepage pictures a woman in an formal gown holding a slender handgun with the words “Thin is sexy.”

The Brady Center is part of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, “devoted to creating an America free from gun violence,” according to its mission statement.

On that Christmas Eve in 1999 Guzman left two daughters ages 3 and 4 years old.

“Now they are teenagers,” said Brady Center senior attorney Daniel Vice. “To those little girls, (the settlement is) a small measure of justice.”

Editing by Jerry Norton