The much-publicized agreement between Smith & Wesson and the federal government to settle lawsuits filed by some 29 cities as well as a threatened federal suit seems to be running into trouble.
When first announced, it was suggested that S&W was supposed to get more gun companies to sign the agreement and the Administration was going to get more cities to drop their lawsuits against the industry. As of March 28, neither of those things has happened.
Gun industry opposition to the agreement seems to have hardened and become universal, at least among the manufacturers. Beretta USA, American Derringer and Bryco Industries have announced their opposition to the agreement, joining Browning, Glock, Hornady Manufacturing and Taurus International, which had already made their positions public.
The Beretta statement linked the agreement clearly to the city lawsuits and the bullying of the White House, saying that Smith & Wesson had "capitulated to this blackmail."
Beretta denounces this surrender, as well as the blatant disregard which these locally elected officials have shown for the US Constitution, including the separation of powers, due process rights of firearms customers, dealers, distributors and manufacturers, and of the right of self-defense embodied in the 2nd Amendment."
The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek have reported that RSR Wholesale Guns, the largest distributor of S&W products, has said that they will not be able to do business with Smith under the terms of the agreement.
Meanwhile, even the cities that were originally reported to have agreed to the deal brokered by Andrew Cuomo, Clintons secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), have failed to sign the agreement. And there are reports that opposition from the other cities that had filed lawsuits has also hardened. Apparently some believed the deal did not go far enough. Others had seen the agreement as a way of extricating themselves from the lawsuits, which had grown more problematic as courts in three states dismissed suits and those in two other states had dismissed significant portions of similar suits.
Both the gun industry and the cities have raised questions about the enforceability of the agreement.
At the consumer level, more and more individual activists and gunowner organizations have been talking about organized boycotts of the worlds largest handgun manufacturer. At the same time, Gun Week has received reports that some consumers are rushing to buy existing stocks of Smith & Wesson guns, perhaps believing that current models may soon be scarce or unavailable. Some gunowners have even urged gun publications to stop reviewing Smith & Wesson products and to reject the companys advertising.
Actually, Ken Jorgensen, media relations manager for S&W, says the company has no intention of dropping existing models, even should the new "owner recognition" technology be added to the line in the next two or three years.
Smith has also placed on their Internet site (www.smith-wesson.com) another version of the agreement the company signed, together with explanatory notes.
But at present it seems that the agreement may turn out to be a huge publicity stunt by the Clinton Administration and the three state attorneys general who have also signed the deal with S&W. No cities have yet succumbed to Cuomos entreaties and signed onto the deal. There appears to be little support for such a settlement either within the firearms industry or among the municipalities.
Without a host of other signatories, even the mechanism for funding the establishment of the Oversight Commissionperhaps the most controversial part of the packageseems in serious doubt right now.
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