NEW YORK – A New York jury doesn't blame gun manufacturers for crimes committed with weapons they made.
Now, a judge will decide whether to throw out a lawsuit filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (search).
A federal jury ruled Wednesday after five days of deliberations that 45 handgun manufacturers and distributors were not guilty of marketing their guns in a way that encouraged violence in black and Hispanic neighborhoods. The panel could not reach a verdict regarding 23 other defendants.
The case marks a major victory for the gun industry, which has been called to the carpet for making a product that has been frequently misused. Gun manufacturers argue they are making a legal product.
For five weeks Glock and Colt Manufacturing (search), among others, defended themselves against a lawsuit brought by the NAACP that alleged the firearms industry knew corrupt dealers were handing out their products to criminals in minority communities and let it happen without interruption.
Rather than a monetary penalty, the NAACP wants to force distributors to restrict sales to dealers who have storefront outlets, prohibit sales to gun show dealers and limit individual purchasers to one handgun a month.
Gun makers say unsuccessful cases brought in New York, Cincinnati, Boston, Philadelphia, and Miami-Dade County, demonstrate that "anti-gun zealots" are trying to make an "end-run" around Congress to change the laws on the sales of guns.
"We welcome the advisory jury's common sense finding that the manufacturers and distributors of firearms are not responsible for the criminal misuse of their products," Lawrence G. Keane, vice president and general counsel, National Shooting Sports Foundation (search), said in a written statement.
"This verdict is the latest in an ongoing series of complete defeats for radical, anti-gun groups that have attempted to use the courtroom for an end-run around the legislative process and impose changes to gun laws that federal and state legislators have roundly rejected.
U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein could take it upon himself to throw out the ruling. The panel's role was solely advisory. Weinstein will ask the plaintiff and defendants to submit within 30 days their written interpretations of the verdict before deciding on any liabilities or remedies.
The verdict did not determine whether Smith & Wesson Corp. (search) would get off the hook.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.