Firearms manufacturers have been largely silent in the debate over gun violence. Their voices emerge from thousands of pages of depositions in a series of liability lawsuits a decade ago reviewed by the New York Times. The cases took place before Congress passed a law shielding them from such suits in 2005. The documents show industry's leaders arguing that their companies bear little responsibility, beyond what the law requires, for monitoring the distributors and dealers who sell their guns to the public.
Executives claimed not to know if their guns had been used in crimes. They rejected voluntary measures to lessen the risk of them falling into the wrong hands. They denied that signs like a single person buying many guns at once or numerous “crime guns” traced to the same dealer necessarily meant anything at all. Charles Brown's company, MKS Supply, is the sole distributor of an inexpensive brand of gun that frequently turned up in criminal investigations. He never examined the trace requests that MKS received from federal agents to learn which of his dealers sold the most crime guns. This lack of interest was echoed by Charles Guevremont, the president of the gun manufacturer Browning, who testified that his company would have no reason to review the practices of a dealer who was the subject of numerous trace requests. “That's not for us to enforce the law,” he said.