BELLEVUE, Wash. – One of the nation’s leading firearms civil rights advocates today called upon the U.S. Justice Department and attorneys general in Connecticut, New York and Maryland, to investigate an “obvious conspiracy” involving mayors in 28 major U.S. cities and an attorney with the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence to bankrupt the firearms industry.

Responding to announcements last week that Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and his colleagues in Maryland and New York would open antitrust investigations after the gun industry refused to follow Smith & Wesson in caving in to the Clinton Administration, Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, said, “If they want to investigate a conspiracy, they really ought to look into the relationship between HCI’s Dennis Henigan and the mayors involved in municipal lawsuits against the gun industry.”

Gottlieb, and the Second Amendment Foundation, last November filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Mayors. That suit contends the mayors have conspired to undermine the civil rights of gun owners by making it increasingly difficult and costly to legally obtain firearms through interstate commerce.

Henigan was not named in the lawsuit, but he is serving as a consultant in almost two dozen legal actions against the gun industry. Henigan is director of the Legal Action project for the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, which is associated with Handgun Control, Inc.

Gottlieb’s group is represented by attorney Richard Gardiner of Washington, D.C. Gardiner is a leading expert on constitutional firearms law, and previously worked for the National Rifle Association.

“If there’s a conspiracy to be found anywhere in this scenario,” Gottlieb said, “it will be found between those mayors who have led their cities into the ill-advised lawsuits against the firearms industry. It has never been a secret that these lawsuits were filed not in the interest of solving gun violence, but to financially break the gun industry.

“While our lawsuit was not filed on behalf of the industry,” Gottlieb continued, “we are seeking to protect the firearms civil rights of the American public, which overwhelmingly supports the Second Amendment’s protection of our individual right to keep and bear arms. By attempting to bury the gun industry in legal red tape, this conspiracy of municipal lawsuits has made it harder for private citizens to exercise their civil right of gun ownership.”