April 13, 2000
The Honorable Eliot Spitzer
Office of the Attorney General
Albany, New York 12224
Dear General Spitzer:
I have received your letter of March 16, 2000 inviting me to join in your effort to encourage various state and local governments to award law enforcement gun contracts only to gun manufacturers agreeing to a “Code of Conduct” which dictates various business practices, safety features, marketing strategies, etc., for both gun manufacturers and gun dealers at the wholesale and retail level. I must respectfully decline your invitation.
First let me say, if I believed the safety of my constituents were truly the issue, I would be much more considerate of your request. But we are not living in a country flooded with “unsafe” guns. It is their illegal use that endangers us – and that must be addressed through vigorous criminal prosecution.
Providing for gun safety locks is one thing and, in truth, only a small part of your “Code of Conduct.” However, dictating how many guns a purchaser is allowed to take home on one day, banning sales at gun shows and prohibiting a minor from even entering a gun store without a parent or guardian are parts of a political agenda, not a push for “gun safety.” Coupling the safety issue with a strict regulation of business practices is merely a maneuver to advance a decidedly political agenda under the guise of “public safety.”
I am a strong proponent and defender of Americans’ Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. I also make every effort to be a responsible manager of my constituents’ tax dollars. I ask the director of the Arkansas State Police to make purchasing and requisition decisions based on quality, service and price. I will not ask him to award a lucrative government contract in order to further a political agenda geared at controlling and ultimately destroying the firearms industry. I want Arkansas State Troopers to protect our citizens and themselves using the best guns available, not guns from the most “politically correct” manufacturer.
In 1999, I signed into law an act prohibiting Arkansas’ local governments from suing firearms manufacturers seeking compensation for injuries and deaths resulting from the illegal use of these companies’ products. To hold the gun industry accountable for crime is like holding our nation’s farmers liable for the healthcare costs associated with obesity. The desire of some to blame the gun manufacturers for crime rather than prosecute criminals seems to me a sadly misguided attempt at protecting our citizens. It is also a rather thinly veiled attempt to vilify and control those who engage in a business which is eminently legal and necessary, yet not particularly smiled upon by the current administration in Washington. I thank God previous administrations understood and appreciated not only the sanctity of the Second Amendment, but its necessity, as well.
Gun manufacturers make the Second Amendment a viable right rather than some theoretical proposition. I will not abuse my authority as Governor to pursue their demise or dictate their business practices though coercion.
So the answer is a definite “no,” I will not seek the capitulation of firearm manufacturers through the use of asinine lawsuits or the doling out of taxpayer-funded government contracts. I regret that you feel either of these tactics to be worthwhile endeavors.
March 24, 2000
Honorable Eliot Spitzer
Attorney General of New York
Office of the Attorney General
Department of Law - The Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
Dear General Spitzer:
Thank you for your letter dated March 16, 2000.
Your suggestion that attorneys general and other law enforcement agencies boycott the sales of quality firearms manufactured legally by companies that have not adopted a “code of conduct” negotiated by the Clinton administration, yourself, Attorney General Blumenthal, and a handful of mayors is troubling for several reasons.
First, your letter seems to invite law enforcement officials to ignore or deliberately violate federal and state competitive bid laws. As you know, competitive bid laws were enacted to protect taxpayers in the procurement of goods and services by government agencies. Limiting procurement to a single source of firearms, such as Smith & Wesson, would render competitive bid laws meaningless and increase the potential for fraud, favoritism, and corruption. As law enforcement officials, attorneys general have been and must remain enforcers and defenders of competitive bid laws.
Second, in a related way, your suggestion raises concerns about constitutional prohibitions against exclusive franchises and monopolies. These constitutional provisions were enacted to protect taxpayers, consumers, and public safety. To promote one manufacturer as the exclusive provider of firearms could run afoul of these constitutional provisions.
Third, in a poor state like Alabama, law enforcement agencies and citizens have interests and needs perhaps different from those of a wealthy state, like New York. It is essential to public safety in Alabama that law enforcement agencies and law-abiding citizens have access to quality firearms at reasonable prices. Your promotion of a code of conduct that obliges firearms manufacturers to incur additional costs that will be passed on to consumers without regard to the needs of consumers in a free market, will harm the law enforcement agencies and citizens of my state.
Fourth, your suggestion, of course, raises important separation of powers and public policy issues, many of which are reflected in state laws. In many states, and hopefully soon in Alabama, laws have been enacted to curtail or forbid government litigation against the firearms industry. Presumably, state attorneys general would not want to promote interests that are contrary to the public policies expressed in state statutes nor would they want to intrude on the province of the legislature to make laws.
I hope and trust that you will receive these concerns in the spirit in which they are offered -- the good faith promotion of the rule of law, the aggressive reduction of crime by well-equipped law enforcement agencies, and the preservation of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms for self-defense and the defense of a free society.
cc: All State Attorneys General
Also, read the text of the Smith & Wesson agreement.
For information on the impact of this agreement see the NRA-ILA Fact Sheet The Smith & Wesson Sellout.
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