- 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
- The more-moderate NRA is encouraging members to urge
other gun makers to "hold firm," and not follow in Smith &
- 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,"
- 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
- 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
- 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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