Guns, Politics, and Freedom
April 12, 2000

Smith…and Wesson…and you

By F. Paul Valone


The following column ran in The Charlotte Observer on April 12, 2000. Ultimately, after Smith & Wesson changed hands and lawsuits against gun manufacturers were dismissed in various courts, S&W dumped the agreement with HUD.


“Historic gun pact,” celebrates the headline.  “Smith & Wesson agrees to add locks, restrict sales.”


The object of media affection is an agreement between handgun manufacturer Smith & Wesson and the Department of Housing and Urban Welfare aimed, HUD alleges, at “keeping firearms out of the hands of children and criminals.”


While the press calls the agreement “voluntary,” HUD threatened to join 30-odd cities in suing gun companies, this time on behalf of 3,200 local housing authorities.  Intending to bleed manufacturers with expensive litigation, HUD Secretary (and Clinton loyalist) Andrew Cuomo promised gun makers “death by a thousand cuts.”


To win a $60 (yes, $60) bet with S&W chief executive Ed Schultz,  Cuomo arranged a deal to drop not only the HUD suit, but half the city suits as well.  HUD plans to coerce all major manufacturers into signing.


What you’ve heard sounds reasonable enough.  S&W handguns will include “external locking devices,” “child safety features,” and eventually “authorized user” (so-called “smart gun”) technology.  Cuomo claims the agreement will “prevent, once and for all, accidental gun deaths and keep children safe.”


But Cuomo and the media carefully avoid mentioning a few “details”—most in the fine print of the “Sales and Distribution Code of Conduct”—which read like a wish list for gun control legislation thus far stymied by grass roots activists whom Bill Clinton calls “the gun lobby.”


The pact requires any gun shop selling S&W products to limit customers to one handgun every 14 days—any handgun, not just S&W—in a weakened version of “one-gun-a-month” restrictions sought by Handgun Control, Inc.


S&W dealers are forbidden from carrying certain semi-automatic firearms or high capacity magazines common in the used gun market, allowing gun control advocates to gradually tighten the screws on guns they failed to ban in 1994, and forcing gun shops to liquidate large portions of their inventories.


HUD’s press release mentions S&W handguns will be “designed so they cannot readily be operated by a child under 6,” but fails to note that probably means heavy trigger pulls which prevent people of limited strength (think Grandma) from using them for self protection and which make successful marksmanship improbable even for police.  Moreover, “authorized user” technology may render firearms too complex and unreliable for defensive use.


To circumvent gun show legislation stalled in Congress, the agreement forbids distribution of S&W products at any show unless all private transactions are registered through the National Instant Check System, meaning you could sell a firearm only through a dealer.


Finally, it funds a national propaganda campaign and creates an “Oversight Committee” which will no doubt look for additional guns to ban.


In sum, the agreement mandates far more than “keeping children safe” from the 110 accidental gun deaths documented by the National Safety Council in 1998.  (No, it isn’t the 4,200 claimed by Clinton and HCI).


Adding insult to injury, six state attorneys general plus the Federal Trade Commission have declared antitrust investigations against dealers and distributors who correctly assessed that if they continue to sell S&W products, they will be forced from business.


What Cuomo & Co. describe as an “antitrust” conspiracy to bankrupt S&W is in fact the outrage of Second Amendment supporters across the country who understand that S&W’s British parent company—Tomkins PLC—sold HUD the American Bill of Rights.


Lest you think only industry insiders are targeting S&W, consider that our organization declared a boycott on the company almost simultaneously with Gun Owners of America and a host of other grass roots groups.  (I expect my “antitrust” subpoena any day now).  An El Paso gun show barred the sale of even used S&W products, and messages are flying around the Internet subtly titled “Smith & Wesson Must Die!”


Ironically, by using litigation blackmail to circumvent the legislative process mandated in the Constitution, HUD, HCI and high-dollar law firms are the true conspirators.  Coordinating their conspiracy to restrain a lawful trade is none other than HCI shyster Dennis Hennigan, who appears among plaintiffs’ attorneys on many of the city suits.


At the risk of delighting my detractors, I can’t help but remember a scene from an old movie in which “Dirty Harry” Callahan stands alone against a gang: “Now you boys put those guns down,” says Callahan


“Say what?”


“Well…you don’t think we’re going to let you walk on out of here.”


“Who’s ‘we,’ sucker?” 


“Smith…and Wesson…and me.”


But if you choose to face the thugs from HUD poised over the supine body of the Constitution, you’d better find someone else to back you up, because Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson just turned tail…and split.