For Release: Monday, July 25, 2005
Facts Expose Frist’s Red Herring: Bulk of Government Contracts Already Go to Foreign Gunmakers
Senator Frist, Meet the Berettas: Ugo, Franco, and Pietro
WASHINGTON–Last week Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) announced his intention to bring to the floor of the U.S. Senate this week legislation to shield the gun industry from civil liability (S. 397). According to Frist, the bill is urgently needed to protect American gunmakers and their ability to supply the U.S. military and other government agencies. “Given the amount, the profusion of litigation, the Department of Defense faces the real prospect of having to outsource sidearms for our soldiers to foreign manufacturers,” Frist stated in remarks made on the Senate floor. He then cited as an example of an “American” company at risk the Italian gunmaker Beretta, which supplies the standard sidearm to U.S. armed forces.
“Apparently, Senator Frist is unacquainted with Ugo Gussalli Beretta and his sons Franco and Pietro, the principals in the Italian firearm manufacturer Beretta,” states Violence Policy Center Legislative Director Kristen Rand, “The fact that Senator Frist must resort to outrageous, untrue, and easily disproved claims about the effect of S. 397 on American gun companies is the latest proof that there is no rational reason to shield the gun industry from civil liability, an industry already exempt from federal health and safety oversight. If Senator Frist truly believes that the arming of America’s defense agencies should not be in the hands of `foreign manufacturers,’ then he has many a sleepless night ahead of him.”
In fact, contrary to Frist’s alarmist assertions, the bulk of U.S. contracts for firearms used by the military and other government agencies already go to foreign manufacturers. According to an article in TheStreet.com that ran on the same day that Senator Frist made his dire prediction, “Until now, three foreign companies have, strangely enough, dominated sales of high-end firearms to U.S. law enforcement officers and the military: Glock of Austria, Beretta of Italy and Sigarms of Switzerland.” TheStreet was reporting on the first federal contract that Massachusetts-based Smith & Wesson had received in 15 years, a deal worth $1.2 million to supply 4,750 pistols to the Army.
The paltry size of the Smith & Wesson contract stands in sharp contrast to the “largest pistol contract in law enforcement history” (valued of $26 million) the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), recently awarded to Heckler & Koch GmbH, a company headquartered in Oberndorf, Germany.
More examples of military and law enforcement contracts awarded to foreign manufacturers are detailed in the new Violence Policy Center study A Foreign Affair: Contracting for U.S. Military and Law Enforcement Firearms released today.