Smith & Wesson Gun
Deal Spurs Intense Backlash
By Carla Crowder
Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer

The fine print of Smith & Wesson's gun safety deal with the Clinton administration has triggered a backlash in the industry.
One distributor is terminating business with the giant gun maker, and gun-rights groups are pushing for a boycott.
As a detailed version of the agreement began circulating this week, many gun dealers learned that Smith & Wesson had signed on to a plan that requires much more than safety locks and background checks, which were touted last week in early reports of the landmark deal.
"The actual agreement is far more onerous," states a letter from RSR Group, a wholesale gun distributor that decided this week to stop shipping Smith & Wesson products.
Gun Owners of America, a national gun-rights group, is calling for a boycott of the company, which the group has labeled "Clinton and Wesson."
The more-moderate NRA is encouraging members to urge other gun makers to "hold firm," and not follow in Smith & Wesson's steps.
The NRA also wants members to thank Glock, Taurus and Browning -- three major gun makers that considered joining the deal but later repudiated it.
British-owned Smith & Wesson signed the agreement with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and 29 cities and states. In return, the gun maker was dropped from a series of pending lawsuits against a long list of gun manufacturers.
Critics accuse Smith & Wesson of selling out to save legal costs. "I'm not surprised that dealers are balking at this," said Jim Manown, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association.
"From the rationing of guns to mandatory testing of purchasers to the bureaucratic mandate of capricious changes in gun design -- all of these things are going to affect dealers and consumers," Manown said.
Most troublesome are fine print details the gun dealers say were downplayed in initial reports of the deal.
For example, dealers who carry Smith & Wesson products must follow new restrictions on all brands of guns they sell. The "code of conduct" bans them from selling large-capacity magazines or semiautomatic assault weapons.
It also prohibits dealers from selling firearms to customers who have not passed a safety class.
And one of the most restrictive in the eyes of the gun industry is the "modified one-gun-a-month limit." Purchasers of handguns can take only one home the day of the sale and must wait 14 days to retrieve the others -- not just Smith & Wesson's, but any handgun.
Gun store employees also must take annual training classes and pass written exams.
RSR Group, the Florida-based wholesaler that's canceling its Smith & Wesson business, is urging the gun maker to reopen negotiations, and include other levels of the industry in any talks.
"It is our opinion as a wholesale distributor in the shooting sports industry that its terms are one-sided and fall short of offering any realistic solutions to the problems concerning the criminal misuse of firearms," RSR wrote Wednesday in a letter to dealers.
Manufacturers such as Smith & Wesson generally ship guns first to a wholesaler, which then fills orders from dealers at gun stores.
With five distribution centers throughout the U.S., RSR is one of the leading Smith & Wesson distributors, shipping to more than 20,000 dealers, said spokeswoman Beatriz Atorresagasti.


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