Rarely has history seen a company commit suicide in such a public way as Smith & Wesson appears to be doing.
First, a quick bit of history – S&W is the largest (or was) handgun manufacturer in the US, holding about 20% of the market. Various lawyers came up with an idea to sue gun companies and hold them liable for gun-related deaths and injuries around the US, basically turning tort law on its head. The idea is that if you whack your thumb with a hammer while nailing up a picture, you can hold the company who made the hammer liable for the injury to your thumb. There’s a bit more to it than that (some are suing on the basis of “negligent” marketing practices), but that’s the long and short of it.
The lawyers, and the cities who they have managed to get to sign on to this claptrap, figure that they don’t actually have to get gun companies to be held liable, the costs of defending all the suits will force them to settle. Unfortunately the lawyers will be in for a rude surprise as the gun companies do not have any money with which to settle (unlike the tobacco companies, the last victims of this nonsense), so most gun companies have decided it’s better to risk going bankrupt than give in to extortion.
But not S&W – they have signed an agreement with the largest entity suing, the US Housing and Urban Development Dept., and most cities suing have agreed to drop their suits as well. Sounds great, until you read the agreement – all wholesalers and dealers who sell S&W products will have to agree to a wide variety of things, such as no longer selling large capacity magazines, requiring specific safety training for customers, limiting the number of sales to customers and so on. The net effect is that no wholesaler or dealer is going to be crazy enough to sign up to this nonsense, because to do so will put them out of business very rapidly.
The level of revulsion among gun dealers in the US has got three states fired up enough to target wholesalers and other manufacturers on anti-trust grounds – which surely is the height of hypocrisy as it is the cities themselves who are colluding to restrain business.
In desperation to save their silly agreement, about 60 cities and counties have agreed to give S&W “preferential” treatment in contracts for police guns. This is illegal, unless the cities can establish that S&W sells something that they need that no-one else sells, because bidding has to be open and competitive.
And S&W knows that, because in the most supreme irony of all, it was S&W who sued the US Government in the mid-80s alleging bias in the military bidding for a new service pistol. S&W’s suit established various principles on tendering for Government contracts.
Turnabout is fair play, it appears!
My personal (highly cynical) view is that S&W is simply trying to save some money on lawyer’s bills, because their current business contracts run until the end of this year – by which time Bill Clinton will have 20 days left in office and S&W can safely tear up this agreement.
Handgun ban a failure
Recently there has been a flurry of critical press stories concerning long-barrelled revolvers in GB (which are legal due to their length). The most idiotic of all was the story that appeared in the Times, which in the same breath as condemning the import of a few hundred Ruger Super Redhawks with 18-inch barrels pointed to a police source that estimated that 10,000 handguns had been illegally imported since the ban. A thousand or so long-barrelled revolvers in the hands of licensed target shooters hardly seems a great worry by comparison!
A most interesting question asked in Parliament elicited some useful information that for the first time breaks down firearm-related homcides by whether the firearm was legally owned or not. Unfortunately they only cover the period up to the end of 1998.
Although there is a slight trend downward in firearm-related offences across the board (excluding airguns), what is fascinating is that handgun-related offences dwarf offences in which a shotgun was used, despite the fact that handguns are banned whereas shotguns are legal.
Colin Greenwood, well-known for his research into armed crime, postulates that armed robbery is the real measure of armed crime. However this is one area in which I disagree, because with homicide and serious assaults, you can be fairly sure that the firearm used is real. With armed robberies it might just be a sawn-off cucumber in a coat pocket. However, the injury statistics on their own show quite clearly that the use of a handgun to cause injury is far higher than with a shotgun.
The injury figures presented in the above stats (follow the link) do include blunt trauma (i.e. pistol whippings), but it’s fair to say a higher proportion of them involve real firearms than armed robberies.
Clearly, despite the prohibition of handguns, they remain the gun of choice of serious criminals.
A further interesting set of statistics is presented here, these indicate that there are currently 163,000 firearm certificates and 690,000 shotgun certificates on issue in Great Britain – a dismal total, when compared to the numbers from ten years ago. (In 1989, there were 183,000 firearm certificates and 952,000 shotgun certificates on issue in GB).
And on the subject of statistics…
A war of words has erupted between two countries at opposite ends of the Earth, or rather between the NRA of America and the Australian Government.
At issue are some statistics presented in an NRA video about gun bans around the world not being as effective as some would like to believe (you can watch the video at NRA Live).
The Australians say the statistics in the video are false, which is rather amusing seeing as they were sourced from the Australian Government website. What we have here is a classic case of political novices going up against perhaps the most formidable political lobby on the face of the planet. By opening their mouths, the Australian Government have given the NRA huge amounts of free publicity and invited the NRA and Australian pro-gunners to ram the Australian Attorney General’s foot down his throat. I’ll wager he won’t try that again.
Don’t you wish we had a gun lobby this effective?
Trigger locks? Ha!
There is currently a legislative effort in the US to require all handguns to be sold with trigger locks.
Anyone who holds a firearm or shotgun certificate will know how restrictive our storage requirements are by comparison. BASC among others have helped draw up new guidance for the police, and you can see it by clicking here. “Comprehensive” is an understatement.
The notes accompanying this guidance make it clear to the police that they should be sensible and keep their more silly opinions to themselves. About time too.
So my next project will be to build myself a gun room…
And remember, the reason why anti-gunners use such short sound bites to attack gun owners is so that anti-gunners can understand them.