Friday, Mar. 17, 2000
Gunmaker agrees to put safety locks on handguns
The Associated Press
Friday, Mar. 17, 2000
WASHINGTON - Smith & Wesson, the largest gun manufacturer in the U.S., has agreed to provide safety locks on its handguns within 60 days and to make them child-resistant within a year, the U.S. government announced today.
Under the unprecedented deal reached with the company by the departments of Housing and Urban Development and Treasury and officials representing state and local governments, Smith & Wesson agreed to a "code of conduct" for sales and distribution of handguns.
The company would sell its products "only to authorized dealers and distributors" who also agree to certain conditions. A dealer or distributor would have its contract with the manufacturer terminated, for instance, if "a disproportionate number" of crimes were traced to the weapons it sells.
In exchange for its commitments toward advancing gun safety, Smith & Wesson won an agreement by the federal, state and local governments to dismiss pending suits against it or refrain from filing new suits. The administration had been threatening to bring a national lawsuit against the industry if manufacturers failed to enter negotiations aimed at increasing gun safety.
Today's deal affects only Smith & Wesson, biggest of the eight major gun manufacturers.
The announcement comes after a series of school and workplace shootings, including one that left a six-year-old Michigan first-grader dead, allegedly at the hands of a fellow pupil. Three men are under indictment in the Feb. 29 shooting of Kayla Rolland, including the uncle of the six-year-old boy who police say killed the girl in a classroom in Buell elementary school near Flint.
Representative Nita Lowey of New York, who has been a leader of congressional Democrats on gun issues, released a statement calling today's agreement "good news for American families. It's a step forward in the fight against gun violence."
"Our goal in reaching an accord is to continue to sell to the consumer market. It would have been easy to agree to sell to the law enforcement and military communities only, but that has never been an option," said Ken Jorgensen, a Smith & Wesson spokesman.
"The effect of this agreement will mean a change in the way Smith & Wesson does business. It will not sacrifice the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, something we will not do."
The agreement provides for new safety and design standards, including:
External locking devices must be included in all the company's handguns within 60 days.
There must be internal locking device on all guns within 24 months.
A second "hidden" serial number must be provided by the manufacturer to counter criminals who obliterate serial numbers.
Within 12 months, handguns must be designed "so they cannot be readily operated by a child under six," said a background paper distributed by administration officials at the news conference.
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