Smith & Wesson

© by Handloader magazine

Most of our readers will remember the Smith & Wesson fiasco that occurred not long ago. The basic agreement really didn’t make S&W responsible for the handling of firearms at the point of sale, but it restricted dealers and retailers, a number of whom ultimately decided to drop S&W products since the idea of some large British-owned gun company telling them how to run their businesses was entirely contrary to the American way of life.

The carrot in the agreement among S&W, HUD and the Clinton Administration was that S&W was to receive preferential treatment in the allotment for firearms contracts with local municipalities, states and the U.S. government. In essence, it meant that S&W would not have to go through any bidding process to sell firearms to the City of Prescott, Arizona, for example. Of course, by invalidating the lawful bidding process, S&W would be free to charge any price for its products. It was a win-win deal for S&W.

Another incentive for S&W to enter into the agreement was relief from the myriad of civil lawsuits that were being brought against firearms manufacturers, collectively and individually. Again, the idea was that the city of Chicago, for example, would drop S&W from its lawsuit, leaving all other manufacturers to fend for themselves.

What most folks don’t know about the S&W debacle is that the upper echelon from S&W were taking information from meetings with other firearms manufacturers and then secretly meeting with Andrew Cuomo and Administration lawyers in an attempt to negotiate a settlement that would retire S&W from the various lawsuits and extend preferential treatment to S&W. Since the tone of the manufacturers’ meetings was generally one of arrested enthusiasm, S&W pretty much assured the anti-gun faction that the rest of the manufacturers would certainly join in agreement, rather than endure the seemingly endless onslaught of litigation. As we are all aware now, S&W was in error.

While the debate over the S&W agreement raged on among firearms owners, retailers and dealers, it was apparent the ruse had been exposed. In an attempt to spin public opinion, an S&W spokesman suggested the agreement really didn’t mean what it said, and in one instance, S&W suggested it didn’t know what was in the agreement. The short-term result of the S&W agreement was a general boycott by the rest of the industry and the firearms buying public. The longer term has resulted in another spin cycle.

Now we are reading in other magazines that a certain number of folks aren’t sure they want to witness the demise of one of our nation’s oldest firearms manufacturers, nor do they want to be responsible for putting S&W employees out on the streets. This change of heart has been reflected in letters to editors in several gun magazines, and some editorial coverage for S&W. Interestingly, several firearms-related magazines have published the S&W spin on the issues, but not one single magazine has published a policy statement from other manufacturers, e.g., Browning, Ruger, Glock, Taurus, etc.

While the letters to the editors in other magazines reflect a more sympathetic view of S&W, it is at least interesting to note these letters only appear in magazines that have traditionally taken hundreds of thousands of advertising dollars from S&W. Handloader and Rifle, neither of which have ever taken any advertising money from S&W, have received no such pleas from our readers for sympathy toward S&W. The situation gets (as Pooh would say) “curiouser” and “curiouser.”

We are also hearing the argument that anyone who currently owns an S&W product is a hypocrite for boycotting the company. That is ridiculous. We, as the buying public, reserve the right to withdraw support from any corporation that, for one reason or another, decides to proceed on a course we don’t agree with.

In the case of S&W, we can keep the revolver we bought six or seven years ago, but we aren’t buying any more S&W products at the present time — certainly not so they can take our dollars and spend them on lawyers who sold the rest of the firearms industry out to the Clinton Administration. We are sorry for the predicament that puts the S&W employees in, but as of now, the money you spend with S&W goes to lawyers who are doing everything they can to sell gun owners down the river.

It is significant to note that when the lucrative firearms contracts S&W was counting on failed to materialize, only then did we start to hear pleas of mercy for employees and that S&W didn’t fully understand the terms of the agreement. What they want the buying public to believe is with all those high-priced lawyers on board, not one of them really knew what the agreement said. With that kind of legal advice and expertise, it should come as no surprise that S&W was buried in lawsuits — call it incompetence.

To make sense of the whole S&W agreement, it is necessary to keep a few things in perspective. First, S&W took relatively confidential information from firearms manufacturers’ meetings and carried it directly to secret meetings with Andrew Cuomo and Administration lawyers. In signing the agreement, S&W fully expected preferential treatment for firearms contracts (which have failed to materialize), and finally, S&W attempted to spin the media in an effort to sell a bunch of double-speak about the agreement to the general public. One can’t help but wonder if the current run of sympathetic letters to the editors and condescending editorial coverage in other magazines is just another effort to spin the issue one more time.

Article reprinted with permission from the June Handloader issue number 211.