WASHINGTON (AP) _ A gun rights group said it has filed a federal lawsuit against the mayors of 23 cities, accusing them of conspiring to erode the right of Americans to own firearms and defend themselves.

The Second Amendment Foundation said it sued to stop a string of lawsuits various cities and counties have filed against gun manufacturers, accusing them of selling defective products or marketing them in ways that increase the likelihood that they will fall into the hands of criminals.

The Second Amendment Foundation said it suspected the suits actually have been filed to financially injure gun manufacturers and owners.

``Now, they are being sued while their meritless and frivolous lawsuits are being dealt serious blows in the courts,'' Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Bellevue, Wash., based group, said in a written statement.

The defendants include the mayors of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, Calif.; Compton, Calif.; Miami; Atlanta; New Orleans, Cleveland and Boston.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors also is named as a defendant in the suit, which was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, said the Second Amendment Foundation.

The suit said that: ``The mayors have conspired together and with the USCM and its members to bring civil actions by the mayors' cities against federally licensed firearms manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and their trade associations for the purpose of bankrupting and otherwise harming such manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and their trade associations as a result of the litigation costs of defending such civil actions.''

It said the cities' suits impose an undue burden on interstate commerce and violate the Constitution's first, second and ninth amendments.

``The mayors' legal challenges have already forced several gun makers to declare bankruptcy, severely downsize their product lines, and-or raise firearm prices, thus hurting consumers _ including taxpayer-funded federal, state and local law enforcement agencies _ all across the country,'' the foundation's statement said.