Smith & Wesson “Clarification” of Agreement Between Government and Gunmaker Exposes “Landmark” Settlement to be a Sham

For Release: Wednesday, April 12, 2000

Smith & Wesson has made public its interpretation of the “landmark” March 17, 2000 agreement between the handgun maker, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and some cities suing the gun industry. The document candidly states that the agreement for the most part merely codifies the company’s current business practices. It also shows that many of the initial claims surrounding the March 17 pact were false or wildly exaggerated. The document also confirms that dealers will be required to only meet the terms of the agreement with respect to Smith and Wesson products, not—as many originally assumed—for all guns sold by the dealer. The annotated edition of the pact (posted on Smith & Wesson’s web site located at www.smith-wesson.com and also available in PDF format by following this link) shows that Smith & Wesson’s “clarification” nullifies any potential positive impact of the agreement.

VPC Director of Federal Policy Kristen Rand states, “Following the agreement, Smith & Wesson’s Ken Jorgensen told the press, `It doesn’t change a lot of things in terms of how we do business….But it is going to save us a lot of money on the legal side.’ Jorgensen’s right. Smith & Wesson wanted something for nothing and they got it. From Smith & Wesson’s perspective this agreement was never about saving gun victims’ lives, it was about saving gun manufacturers money.”

Three of many examples where Smith & Wesson has interpreted the document to render its impact meaningless include:

  • Agreement: Smith & Wesson authorized dealers will, “Make no sales at gun shows unless all sales by any seller at the gun show are conducted only upon completion of a background check.”Smith & Wesson’s Interpretation: “This applies only to Smith & Wesson product and does not apply to private sales.”
  • Agreement: Smith & Wesson authorized dealers will enact new security measures, including: 1) “[d]isplay cases shall be locked at all times except when removing a single firearm to show a customer” and “[a]ll firearms shall be secured, other than during business hours, in a locked fireproof safe or vault in the licensee’s business premises or in another secure and locked area,” 2) “[a]mmunition shall be stored separately from the firearms and out of reach of the customers,” and, 3) “persons under 18 years of age [are] to be accompanied by a parent or guardian when they are in portions of the premises where firearms or ammunition are stocked or sold.”Smith & Wesson’s Interpretation: The storage requirement “applies to Smith & Wesson Firearms only.” The ammunition requirement “applies to dealers, and pertains to centerfire handgun ammunition only where physically possible.” As regards the age requirement, “This may be accomplished by posting a sign that states persons under 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult in the area where firearms or ammunition are stocked or sold.” Smith & Wesson promises to supply the signs.
  • Agreement: Smith & Wesson authorized dealers will transfer firearms only to “individuals who have demonstrated that they can safely handle and store firearms through completion of a certified firearms safety training course or by having passed a certified firearms safety examination.”Smith & Wesson’s Interpretation: “This applies to Smith & Wesson products only” and “Smith & Wesson will provide simple-to-use training aids, handout materials, videos and any forms required to assist dealers in meeting these requirements at the point of sale.” Smith & Wesson also states,”Courses such as NRA Basic Pistol, Hunter Safety or State Conceal Carry Courses will also likely fulfill this requirement.”

The document reveals that other much-touted components of the agreement do not represent any changes in behavior on the part of the gun maker. For example: the company had already been supplying trigger locks with all handguns (and had been lauded for doing so by the Clinton Administration at an October 1997 Rose Garden ceremony); all of its current handguns meet the minimum size and quality standards outlined in the pact; and, it had already been working on “smart” gun technology.

Adds Rand, “Smith & Wesson’s actions are only the latest evidence of the futility of relying on promises made by the gun industry. The only way the gun industry will ever change its deadly manufacturing and marketing practices is if it is forced by federal or state regulation to do so.”

 

 

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