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Pocket Rockets

The Gun Industry's Sale of Increased Killing Power

Section Two: Ceasing Fire

The gun industry is driven by the impersonal forces of the marketplace�profit and innovation. Our society has long since learned that although these forces may produce an abundance of choice among products, they often do not adequately take into account subjective values such as life, safety, and health. For example, left to its own devices the automobile industry for decades created cars that sold well, but were unsafe. Automobile death and injury rates declined significantly once attention was focused on the design and marketing of motor vehicles.36 In contrast, the gun industry is currently exempt from even the most basic consumer health and safety laws. It will therefore quite "naturally" continue to design and market new, more lethal products like pocket rockets until guns and ammunition are subjected to the same comparison of cost and benefit to which virtually every other consumer product sold in America is subject. But as the gun industry markets each new innovation with ever-increasing lethality, public policy typically responds on a reactive, piecemeal basis.

This must change if we are to keep up with the industry's relentless ingenuity. To effectively respond to the public safety threat posed by weapons such as pocket rockets, the firearms industry must be subject to the same type of regulation that already applies to virtually every other industry in America.

Congress should act on legislation introduced by Senator Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) and Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)�the Firearms Safety and Consumer Protection Act. The bill would vest the Department of the Treasury with strong consumer protection authority to regulate the design, manufacture, and distribution of firearms and ammunition. The agency would be empowered to take the steps necessary to protect the public from unreasonable risk of injury resulting from the use of firearms or firearm products. The agency would be able to set minimum safety standards for firearms and ammunition, issue recalls, mandate safety warnings, and, in some circumstances, ban certain models or classes of weapons.

This legislation would end the gun industry's lethal immunity from regulation and permit the Department of the Treasury to respond immediately to new threats to public safety�such as pocket rockets.

Go to Appendix A: Selected Pocket Rockets on the American Market (1997-1999)

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e) There are no "standard" industry specifications for the overall length of pistols that are variously advertised as "compact," "subcompact," "carry," "concealed carry," and so forth. The seven-inch-length dimension used in this report was selected after inspection of a range of several manufacturers' advertising materials and is intended to fall on the conservative side of the vague line dividing compact handguns from "full-sized" pistols.

f) "Officers in Bronx Fire 41 Shots, And an Unarmed Man Is Killed," The New York Times, February 5, 1999, p. A1.

The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals. The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related death and injury.

All contents � 2000 Violence Policy Center