Six State Anti-Trust Investigation Looms Over Gun Agreement Reaction

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

( - A multi-state antitrust investigation of gun manufacturers is developing, as attorneys general in at least six states take aim at those companies and gun-related organizations that they suspect of retaliating against Smith & Wesson for that firm's decision to sign an agreement with the Clinton Administration.

Inquiries began last week in New York and Maryland. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he has issued nearly two dozen subpoenas this week to gun makers and distributors. According to Blumenthal, officials in California, Florida and Massachusetts are about to begin their own inquiries while the federal government also is considering its own investigation.

Late last month, Smith & Wesson, headquartered in Springfield, MA, signed an agreement with the Clinton Administration promising to include child safety locks on all newly made weapons and within three years agreed to develop a technology allowing the manufacture of so-called "safe guns" which can only be fired by the owner. In exchange for signing the pact, the company was dropped from more than 60 lawsuits brought by cities, counties and states against the gun industry.

The agreement has been criticized by many in the industry, including the 200,000 members of the Gun Owners of America. The GOA asked its members to boycott Smith & Wesson products.

Blumenthal said his office has received several reports that gun makers are communicating amongst themselves concerning the Smith & Wesson-Clinton Administration pact.

In addition, Blumenthal contends Web site postings criticizing the company and threats against magazines running Smith & Wesson ads have also been made. "The indications are sufficiently strong that we believe a full scale investigative effort is justified," he said.

"Exercising corporate responsibility should not be reason for your competitors to put a bulls eye on your back," said Nathan Barankin of the California Attorney General's office.

Maryland Attorney General J Joseph Curran Jr said Smith & Wesson should receive praise for the agreement. "They are moving in the right direction in terms of what most Americans want."

Meanwhile, Smith & Wesson President Ed Schultz insisted the company is not seeking an investigation of the industry. He added, "However, we certainly disagree with the kinds of things the attorneys general think may be going on."