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It was truly coincidental that March 30, 2000 — the day my last
week’s column, “Slick &
Worthless,”

was published — was the very day news of antitrust actions against the
firearms industry made front-page news.

The rhetoric from the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, and
Maryland was heated and bitter. Their plan to force the firearms
industry into submission by coercing Smith & Wesson (S&W) was not going
according to their timetable and their anger was evident. Less than two
weeks after the Department of Housing and Urban Development
announcement
of the S&W
agreement, it had become obvious that the rest of the industry wasn’t
falling in line as planned.

According to the Washington Post, Connecticut Attorney General
Richard Blumenthal said, “We knew and anticipated there would be
criticism, some of it quite vehement. We didn’t anticipate there would
be apparently concerted activity to retaliate. We have issued subpoenas.
We are conducting interviews.”

Although Blumenthal did not name who had received subpoenas, his
counterpart in New York State, Eliot Spitzer acknowledged that the
subpoenas were issued to “companies in the industry.” The New York Times
quoted Spitzer as saying, “We are seeing behavior on the part of Smith &
Wesson’s competitors that raises the specter of illegal antitrust
activity.”

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. defined the theme of
the investigation this way: “If a company is doing the right thing,
don’t block them. If you do, we’re going to take you to task.” Curran
was obviously insinuating that since S&W had cooperated, the lack of
cooperation by the rest of the firearms industry was an organized
effort.

The Clinton administration and its sycophant state attorneys general
have discovered that their ploy to regulate firearms through industry
intimidation is not being greeted with enthusiasm. They all know that,
should the Clinton-S&W deal collapse because no other manufacturers sign
on, it would be detrimental to the government’s coercion. Even Spitzer
said, “If one company signs on and is left out to dry, we can’t credibly
go to other companies and ask them to join this agreement.”

It’s ironic that the government officials, who fashioned this bad
agreement, are now complaining and resorting to more threats when others
in the firearms business — manufacturers, distributors, and dealers –
aren’t bowing to their political threats and blackmail.

It’s truly ironic when we have the chief law enforcement officers of
three states alleging illegal antitrust activity in the firearms
industry, while at the same time they and others are threatening to
boycott any handgun manufacturer that doesn’t sign the Clinton-S&W
agreement.

Yet, no one who has been involved in gun politics should be
surprised. The true objective of the antigun politicians is to use the
gun issue as a stepping-stone to more political power.

As Paul Harvey would say, the “rest of the story” of the Smith &
Wesson capitulation was laid out in the April 3, 2000, edition of the
New York
Times.

It is the culmination of the two-year effort story to curtail firearms’
manufacturers by Handgun Control Inc., the Clinton administration and
power-hungry politicians.

It’s a story of a lobbying group, Handgun Control, with almost
unlimited access to the current administration, playing ambitious
politicians against one another. They saw the opportunity to work with
whomever would finally broker a deal to push the HCI antigun agenda one
step closer to a total gun ban. In the end they helped Secretary of
Housing and Urban Affairs Andrew Cuomo succeed in “outdoing” his fellow
New Yorker, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, in getting a settlement with
Smith & Wesson.

This story of political ambition and personal hubris proves beyond a
doubt that none of these politicians care or understand the concerns and
feelings of American gun owners. They certainly don’t care about the
Bill of Rights; all they care about is their personal political future:
more political power, which translates to governorships, U.S. senator
positions and even running for the presidency. It’s not about guns,
it’s about power — political and financial.

The New York Times summarizes it with:

    Several political observers said the rivalry was not likely to
    end soon, with Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Cuomo continuing to struggle for
    attention on the New York political stage.

    “Gun control is just an incidental tableau,” said a Democrat who
    represents New York in Congress.

Yet, the irony is that it’s the gun owners who are making their
anger known. It’s a groundswell of private citizens who happen to own,
use and sell firearms who don’t appreciate a sell-out by a gun
manufacturer. They are the ones who are making their opinion known in
the oldest economic way possible — by buying a different product, by
shopping at places where different products are sold, and by letting the
retailers know their opinion.

The fact that wholesalers and retailers have decided not to sell S&W
handguns is a question of economics, not collusion. It’s a plain and
simple reaction to consumer disgust. The Internet gun-and-hunting
e-mail lists, which number in the thousands, are vying with each other
to let others know of their efforts to inform the manufacturers,
wholesalers, and retailers of their contempt for S&W.

Bob Delfay, president and CEO of National Shooting Sports Foundation,
answered the government’s charges of collusion by saying, “Whether a
retailer chooses to carry a company’s line or whether a consumer chooses
to buy particular products are, of course, independent customer
decisions, not anti-trust violations. Some customers have publicly
announced that they would not carry the Smith & Wesson line. They have
done so on the basis of their business evaluation of the onerous burdens
that would be placed on them by subjecting themselves to the provisions
of the Smith & Wesson agreement. Angry or disappointed customers
certainly don’t constitute the basis of an anti-trust action”

Those “angry and disappointed” customers are using every
communication method to let S&W know their anger. Gun owners have
called S&W so often that a special voice mailbox is now being used to
record complaints. In addition one concerned citizen has started an
online petition for
those wanting to say, “We, the undersigned, are boycotting Smith &
Wesson as a result of their recent capitulation to the federal
government that will severely restrict 2nd Amendment rights of United
States citizens.” As of April 4 there were 5,697 signatures on this
petition.

I received many copies of letters/e-mails to Smith & Wesson in
response to my last column. After reading them it’s easy to understand
the frustration of gun owners. They feel that they have been betrayed
by one of their own kind. They see the S&W capitulation not as a
corporate question of economics, but as a question of a company
kowtowing to a government committed to restricting and eliminating their
individual right to own a gun. With that kind of emotion being
expressed, it’s no wonder that wholesalers and retailers have decided to
stand by their customers, rather than one supplier.

One letter summarized it best: “What’s next for you? Say, why don’t
you turn over all your purchase and repair records and all e-mails like
this to Clinton? That might even net you some big government contracts!
That was what this was about, wasn’t it? Selling us out so you could get
preferential treatment from city contracts?”

For Smith & Wesson it’s about money. For Cuomo, Spitzer, Rosenthal
and Curran it’s about power. American gun owners know it’s about their
rights. They are fighting mad about one company’s capitulation — a
capitulation that diminishes their freedom.

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