Washington Outlook

Mayors, Counties, State Attorneys General Form “Communities For Safer Guns Coalition”

By Ed Somers
April 3, 2000

Mayors and other officials from 66 cities and counties, and three state attorneys generals, have joined with the Clinton Administration to announce the formation of the “Communities For Safer Guns Coalition.” The new coalition will support giving a gun purchase preference to any gun maker adopting the new gun safety and dealer responsibility standards agreed to by gun maker Smith & Wesson.

The coalition was first announced on March 22 in Washington, DC by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo; White House Domestic Policy Advisor Bruce Reed; Mayors Joseph P. Ganim of Bridgeport, Bill Campbell of Atlanta, and Blanca Vela of Brownsville; and the State Attorneys General of Maryland, New York, and Connecticut. At that time, 29 cities and counties had joined the coalition.

Then on March 31, another 37 cities and counties announced their participation in the coalition.

In commenting on the new coalition, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo said, “As President Clinton has said, governments at every level should use their procurement policies to support manufacturers who take responsible steps to make guns safer and to keep guns out of the wrong hands... It’s common sense for police to buy guns from a company that makes it harder for criminals to get hold of guns that can be used against police and civilians.”

Smith & Wesson - the nation’s largest handgun maker - became the first manufacturer to adopt the new gun safety and dealer responsibility standards on March 17. Under the agreement, Smith & Wesson will make major changes in the design, distribution and marketing of guns to make them safer and to help keep them out of the hands of children and criminals.

Among the provisions in the agreement signed by Smith & Wesson, the company agreed to:

  • Install mandatory gun locks and other child-safety devices on all guns;

  • Introduce “smart gun” technology in all newly designed handguns within three years that allows guns to be fired only by the owner;

  • Bar gun sales - including gun show sales - without a background check of the buyer; and

  • Limit the delivery of multiple handgun sales.

The agreement is the product of negotiations between HUD, the Treasury and Justice Departments, and some local and state governments with Smith & Wesson that were designed to settle lawsuits already filed against Smith & Wesson and to prevent possible new ones.

Representatives of the following 17 cities and counties that filed lawsuits against gun manufacturers have approved the agreement and pledged to drop their lawsuits against Smith & Wesson in exchange for the company’s landmark reforms: Miami-Dade County, Los Angeles, Inglewood, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, West Hollywood, Berkeley, Bridgeport, Atlanta, Camden, Newark, St. Louis, Detroit, Gary, Boston and the District of Columbia.

In addition, the federal government and the Attorneys General of Connecticut and New York agreed not bring threatened lawsuits.

Thirteen other city and county governments with pending suits against Smith & Wesson have not agreed to drop their suits: Alameda County, Camden County, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Compton, Cook County, East Palo Alto, San Mateo County, Wayne County, Wilmington, Los Angeles County and New Orleans.

An Oversight Commission made up of two representatives appointed by the local government participants in the agreement, one from states, one from Smith & Wesson, and one selected by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will oversee the agreement.

The “Communities For Safer Guns Coalition” said that if other gun makers adopt the same changes made by Smith & Wesson, they will also receive a purchase preference from governments in the Coalition when the governments buy comparable guns for police departments and other law enforcement agencies. To date, no other gun manufacturer has agreed to join the Smith & Wesson agreement, with Glock Inc, a major supplier of handguns to law enforcement officers, stating publically that it would not agree to terms. Browning has also publically stated that it will not agree to the terms.

Last week Secretary Cuomo announced he will propose a regulation encouraging the nation’s 3,200 public housing authorities to give preference in their gun purchases to any gun makers that adopt the new gun safety and dealer responsibility standards.

In addition to covering gun purchases by housing authorities, the regulation will encourage the authorities to apply the same requirement to private subcontractors that provide security at housing developments. Purchases by housing authorities will have to be made consistent with all local, state and federal procurement laws and regulations.

The major law enforcement branches of the federal government including the FBI, ATF, and Secret Service have not stated that they will provide a purchasing preference.

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