By Daniel Wiessner
(Reuters) - One of the largest U.S. gun control groups is launching a campaign against gun dealers who sell weapons to criminals which include protests and a slate of lawsuits.
Officials with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence on Friday said the campaign will also include a code of conduct it will urge gun dealers nationwide to sign. The first protest will be on Saturday in front of a gun store in the suburbs of Chicago, which has been plagued with gun violence in recent years.
The group's president, Dan Gross, said 60 percent of guns used in crimes in the United States are sold by just 1 percent of gun dealers, which will be the targets of the group's efforts.
“They are the bad apples ... who skirt the strong and effective background check laws, turn off video surveillance equipment (in gun shops), and falsify sales records all to cover their tracks and improve their bottom line,” Gross said during a telephone press conference from Chicago.
He said the details of the proposed code of conduct would be unveiled Saturday.
The Brady Center has filed dozens of lawsuits against gun dealers over the last 25 years, with mixed results. In a significant breakthrough in recent years, courts in New York, Kansas, Wisconsin and Alaska have ruled that gun dealers who sell to criminals may be held liable by shooting victims in those states.
Jonathan Lowy, the director of the Brady Center's Legal Action Project, said a "major" suit would be filed Monday in Philadelphia, followed by one in Florida, though he did not give details.
“The purpose of the lawsuits is to hold irresponsible gun companies accountable and to put a price on arming criminals," Lowy said during the press conference.
Dave Kopel, a Colorado-based attorney and gun rights advocate, said in an interview that the Brady Center and other gun control groups have a mixed record in selecting dealers to sue. Many of them are small businesses that respect gun laws, he said, but they settle lawsuits because they can't afford to fight them in court.
“I don’t have particular confidence in the Brady Center’s carefulness in selecting only bad actors to be the targets of lawsuits,” Kopel said.
The Brady Campaign is named for James Brady, a former aide to President Ronald Reagan who was shot in a 1981 assassination attempt on the president and became an ardent supporter of gun control. Brady died in August from complications caused by the shooting.
(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner; Editing by Ted Botha, Bernard Orr)