HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Colt's Manufacturing Co. -- inventor of
the six-shooter, "the gun that won the West" -- is all but getting
out of the everyday handgun business because of lawsuits against
Colt's plans to discontine seven lines of consumer handguns. The
company makes the famous .45-caliber automatic that was the U.S.
military sidearm of choice for most of this century.
Sales to everyday consumers make up about 30 percent of the
company's business, The New York Times reported Monday.
The company will continue to make its classic handguns: the
.45-caliber automatic and the Model P, a replica of Samuel Colt's
famous six-shot revolver. Both will continue to be available to the
Handguns for the military, law enforcement agencies and
collectors, which already make up the bulk of its business, also
In a letter sent to distributors last week, Colt's said the move
was forced by lawsuits filed against gun manufacturers by 28 cities
and counties around the country.
"We have had to face the harsh reality of the significant
impact which our litigation defense costs are having on our ability
to operate competitively in the marketplace," Vice President
Thomas H. Kilby wrote. A copy of the letter was obtained by The
Colt's also plans to eliminate as many 300 of the 700 jobs at
its West Hartford factory, according to Newsweek magazine.
Neither Colt's officials nor company attorneys returned calls
seeking comment Monday. But in a statement, the company said
eliminating some unprofitable handgun lines "is part of the
normal, ongoing management of the business."
"Our marketing objective is to streamline our handgun product
line into a smaller, but higher-value collection of real Colt
`Classics' ... for serious gun enthusiasts and shooters," Kilby
said in the letter.
Colt's is among the gunmakers targeted by cities and counties
seeking reimbursement for the costs of gun violence. In February, a
federal jury in New York City found that the marketing practices of
Colt's and eight other companies made them liable for shootings
with handguns obtained illegally.
Two weeks ago, Colt's announced it would create a separate
company, iColt, to produce its high-tech "smart gun," a weapon
that can only be fired by an authorized user.
Other gunmakers have taken steps to limit their liability,
including California-based Davis Industries which filed for
bankruptcy protection in May.
Brian J. Siebel, senior attorney with the Washington-based
Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, said the decision by Colt's
will not persuade the cities to drop the company as a defendant.
Gun advocates said they were disappointed.
"I don't think these lawsuits are going to go anywhere," said
Robert Crook, executive director of the Coalition of Connecticut
Sportsmen, a lobbying group with 40,000 members in Connecticut.
"They're based on a faulty presumption: that manufacturers should
pay for the death and disorder of criminals on the streets."