27 May 2013

Common Sense in the Gun Industry

This morning’s New York Times includes Mike McIntire and Michael Luo’s article on records from a lawsuit about ten years ago arguing that gun companies bore some responsibility for the harm caused by the lethal instruments they manufacture.

Most gun-company executives denied any such responsibility, but there were a couple of exceptions.

Ugo Gussalli Beretta, a scion of the family of Italian firearms makers,…indicated that he did not understand how easy it was to buy multiple guns in the United States, compared with his home country. Questioned by a lawyer for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, he said he believed — incorrectly — that Beretta U.S.A. had a policy requiring its dealers to first determine if there was “a legitimate need” for someone to buy so many guns.

Asked why he thought that, Mr. Beretta replied, “Common sense.”
Toward the end of the article, McIntire and Luo note that in 2000 Smith & Wesson, then the country’s largest handgun manufacturer, agreed to settle the lawsuit, design a handgun that children couldn’t operate, and require its dealers and distributors to run background checks on all sales, including at gun shows. So what happened?
Smith & Wesson’s sales quickly plummeted amid an industry backlash. Documents produced through the discovery process in the municipal suits show other gun makers seeking to isolate the company. A letter from Dwight Van Brunt, an executive at Kimber America, a gun maker, to top officials at a firearms industry trade group urged them to confer with the N.R.A. and “boycott Smith now and forever. Run them out of the country.”
The company came under new management the next year and stopped carrying out that agreement. Note that Kimber America expected to use the NRA in its campaign against a competitor.

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