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The Smith & Wesson Sellout

Monday, March 20, 2000

On April 27, 1999, President Bill Clinton officially declared his Administration's war on American gun owners by identifying his enemy: "another culture in our country, that I think has gotten confused about its objectives (the) huge hunting and sport shooting culture in America."

Smith & Wesson, Inc., a British-owned company, recently became the first to run up the white flag of surrender and run behind the Clinton-Gore lines, leaving its competitors in the U.S. firearms industry to carry on the fight for the Second Amendment. Of course, there is no Second Amendment in Britain, where subjects are barred from owning handguns and many long guns.

In an act of craven self-interest, on March 17, 2000, Smith & Wesson (S & W) signed an agreement with the Departments of the Treasury and Housing and Urban Development in order to be dropped as a defendant in a handful of reckless lawsuits filed by municipalities against the firearms industry. Only a day after the settlement was announced, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo and the mayors of Atlanta, Detroit and Miami moved to shore up the S & W maneuver by promising to contort their procurement policies and purchase only the company's guns.

The media instantly portrayed the settlement as an agreement by S & W to adopt gun safety measures. In fact, the settlement doesn't merely alter the design of S & W handguns--it elevates S & W to the role of self-appointed arbiter of national gun policy.

Distributors and dealers who want to continue to sell S & W products will be forced to agree to a wish list of gun-prohibitionist demands such as: 14-day waiting periods, bans of affordable self-defense handguns, paying for anti-gun advertising, to name a few.

"I'm not willing to be a pawn in a political chess game," S & W CEO Ed Shultz is quoted in the March 27, 2000, edition of Newsweek. Yet by signing this sweeping agreement, Shultz has become exactly that, manipulated by the Administration into executing a "settlement" that is widely portrayed as a political victory for the White House.

Yet the agreement dispenses with only a third of the municipal lawsuits, and binds only two federal agencies and two state attorneys general from filing suits in the future. The remaining city suits are unaffected, and other state and federal agencies can continue to threaten the industry at will. The price of S & W's maneuver falls primarily on others--lawful firearm dealers, distributors, other manufacturers and law-abiding American citizens.

Here are just some of the terms of the S & W/Clinton-Gore Administration agreement:

CONSUMER IMPACT . . .

  • Prohibited from buying more than one handgun in a 14-day period.
  • Prohibited from buying a firearm without passing an unspecified safety test.
  • Prohibited from buying a self-defense handgun that did not meet arbitrary accuracy standards.
  • Prohibited, if under age 18, from even walking into the firearms section of a sporting goods store unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

DEALER IMPACT . . .

  • Prohibited from selling legal semi-automatic rifles, commonplace ammunition magazines and firearms that do not meet the difficult standards established in the agreement.
  • Prohibited from selling firearms at any gun show where any legal private sale is conducted.
  • Required to include with every firearm sold, a false written statement in large bold-face type that hundreds of children die each year from firearm accidents.
  • Required to carry $1 million in liability insurance and perform tasks properly handled by law enforcement to comply with the edicts of a new "Oversight Commission."

MANUFACTURER IMPACT . . .

  • Prohibited from marketing any firearm in a way that appeals to young shooters and hunters.
  • Required to dedicate 1% of revenues to a propaganda campaign promoting the dangers of gun ownership.
  • Required to support legislative efforts to reduce firearms misuse and development of "smart" gun technology.
  • Required to "ballistically fingerprint" every firearm, thus setting up backdoor national firearms registration.
  • Required to meet certain unproven design standards for handguns sold only to civilians--guns sold to military and police would be exempted, thereby showing the intent is not to make guns safer or better, but to impose standards that will ultimately eliminate sales, to private citizens.
  • Required to manufacture pistol with positive, manually-operated safety devices as determined by BATF standards applying to imported handguns. BATF has repeatedly handed down politically-driven misinterpretations of the "sporting purposes" importation law, to prohibit many semi-auto rifles and handguns.

CONCLUSION:

Sold as getting S & W out from under reckless litigation, the true intent of this agreement is to force down the throats of an entire lawful industry anti-gun polices rejected by the Congress, rejected by legislatures across America, and rejected by the judges who have dismissed their lawsuits in whole or in part nearly without exception.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.