How Gun Maker Smith & Wesson Almost Went Out Of Business When It Accepted Gun Control

In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting, gun control has been thrust into the spotlight once again. The gun industry — and its lobby group, the NRA — stands firmly against gun control of any kind.

But most people forget that 13 years ago Smith & Wesson tried to do something that, in hindsight, seems radical: reach a compromise with the federal government by accepting some sort of gun control, in return for permission to stay in business, albeit with more strict regulation.

It’s also important to note this this was the first-ever compromise in which a major gun manufacturer committed to fundamentally changing the way guns are made, distributed and sold.

The company also believed the move had PR value: It hoped to burnish its brand by becoming the foremost firearms company that cared about safety.

The attempt nearly killed the company.

Smith & Wesson has been around since the mid 1800s. The company is one of the standard issuers of firearms for the police and armed forces across the nation. Things were going well for the firm until 2000.

That year, President Bill Clinton proposed legislation that enforced safety and design standards, such as locking devices and restrictions on magazine sizes, and limits on the sales and distribution of firearms. No marketing or advertising restrictions were put in place. Clinton had been working on gun safety for the later part of his term, so this was a huge milestone for his efforts. Current New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was the architect behind the agreement.

Smith & Wesson voluntarily jumped on board.

There is a history of companies doing this type of thing. Most famously, tobacco companies have accepted stringent regulation of their product. Liquor companies make the same regulatory compromises all the time. Both industries are subject to all sort of arcane laws limiting their marketing, advertising, and distribution.

But those regulations always guarantee one thing: The right to stay in business.

So S&W agreed to play along with this agreement and to be accountable for its enforcement by a five-member oversight commission.

Much to the company’s surprise, the NRA almost immediately instigated a boycott of its products. Other gun companies looked down on S&W for giving into political persuasion, and gun advocates didn’t agree with the new restrictions S&W succumbed to.

Consumers began refusing to buy S&W products and the market became flooded with used S&W goods that people wanted no part of. Gun enthusiasts saw the company as breaking solidarity with them, as a traitor and perpetrator of gun control. Consumers severely punished the firm for its disloyalty.

Needless to say, S&W was taken completely off guard by the response.

The firm experienced an immediate sales decline of nearly 40 percent in the year after its compromise.

Smith and wesson chart

                                        Bloomberg Data/Christina Austin BI

Despite the drastic downturn (or perhaps because of it), another company, Saf-T-Hammer, was interested in purchasing the company and putting it back on its feet. The company realized the brand, and its name, were worth salvaging.

In 2001, shortly after the political fiasco, Saf-T-Hammer, purchased the firm for $45 million, with the intent of incorporating its security products onto all S&W goods. The new company was named Smith & Wesson Holding Company.

Fast forward 13 years, and the gun debate is back on the minds of politicians and civilians alike. According to CoreBrand, which conducts research on the familiarity and favorability of 1,000 American corporate brands, S&W is incredibly wary of becoming involved in the political sphere again. CoreBrand worked with the firearms company as it was “coming out of its depression and revitalizing.”

“It needs to get over its anguish,” says CoreBrand founder Jim Gregory. “It has the opportunity to lead the conversation with other gun manufacturers about proper safety measures. It can help educate about guns, which would definitely be in its best interest.”

According to Gregory, the team that facilitated the Clinton agreement on the S&W side is no longer with the company, which at this point can be seen as both a good and bad thing. Good because they made a major mistake, and bad because they can’t help the reformed company learn from the mistake and avoid it this time around.

“It can create a long-term strategy instead of being politicized out of existence,” said Gregory.

In terms of why S&W went along with the legislation in the first place, Gregory thinks the political pressure may have been hard to deflect, much like how Obama’s administration is handling the current gun debate. Gregory says Obama’s strong statement against gun violence may create another round of political pressure for these firms.

Basically, gun companies are sitting and waiting to see if Obama will force things upon them or if he expects gun companies to regulate themselves.

Other companies, such as Citgo, because it is owned by Venezuela, and BP, after its oil spills, have experienced customer boycotts, but Gregory says none have been as effective as the boycott against S&W.

“They typically don’t last very long and are quite short-lived,” said Gregory of the past boycotts against other companies.

Today, Gregory thinks some customers have forgiven and forgotten, while others may still hold personal boycotts against S&W. The firm has gone to great lengths to improve its image, from introducing new products, to inserting itself into public relations through media impressions, supporting shooting competitions, the Olympics, and community activities in general.

Still, Gregory says some people will always see gun producers in a bad light, no matter how much they give back to the community or enforce safety. These people will never be swayed otherwise.

While some will never be convinced of the benefits of guns, others rushed out to purchase more guns after the Connecticut shooting. Whether it’s because they felt unsafe without a weapon, or because they feared legislation that would prohibit future sales of firearms, is yet to be understood.

smith and wesson yahoo chartYahoo Finance

This chart shows how S&W’s stock price has grown threefold since early 2011.

Other gun companies have seen great days lately, as well. Hyatt Gun Store, in Charlotte, had a record-breaking day following the Connecticut massacre. The store sold over $1 million in products in one day, the highest single-day profit since the store opened in 1959. Hyatt isn’t the only store that experienced this. Walmart gun shelves were cleaned out as well, according to a report by Bloomberg.

This surge in purchases could have contributed to S&W’s impressive sales revenue from 2012.

Today, the gun industry is under extreme political duress again as sales continue to spike. History — and the finances — suggest there won’t be any compromises this time round.



Court reverses conviction of felon who was hunting with replica antique

The Florida Supreme Court in a 5-2 ruling overturned the conviction of a man for being a felon in possession of a firearm because the gun he was using wasn’t considered modern under state law. The case involves Christopher Weeks who was charged for being a felon in possession of a firearm on Feb. 4, 2012, after a Florida Fish and Game Wildlife officer stopped him on state land during primitive weapon season for deer hunting. Weeks had been hunting with a Traditions .50-caliber muzzleloader equipped with a scope, a gun he received as a Christmas present after researching guns a felon could possess.

State law defines an antique firearm as any gun that used a “matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar early type of ignition system or replica thereof” or was made before 1918. Yet, authorities argued the scope modernized the gun.

Facing a jury trial, Weeks pleaded no contest and received three years probation. However, a 2013 District Court reversed that ruling on appeal, citing state law was unconstitutionally vague and, even though Weeks had added a scope to the muzzleloader, the addition was not enough to make the black powder percussion gun a modern firearm. State prosecutors took the position that Weeks’ firearm was not an exact copy of a weapon manufactured before 1918 — due to the scope — and his conviction should stand.

This week, the Supreme Court in a 5-2 split agreed with Weeks’ argument and held state law emphasizes the ignition system as the distinctive feature of an “antique firearm,” and that the hunter’s replica “used a type of firing system specifically mentioned” as exempt in the law’s language in an opinion written by Justice Barbara Pariente. Justices James E.C. Perry, Jorge Labarga and Ricky Polston concurred.

Justice Charles Canady, in a separate concurrence, blasted the State’s line of reasoning that adding a scope to Weeks’ replica made it a modern firearm, arguing that in the same logic “an antique replica with any modern accessory attached, such as camouflage tape, a rubber recoil pad, or a nylon rifle sling, would—unlike a similarly configured actual antique—fall outside the definition of an ‘antique firearm’ whether the accessory is permanently secured or temporarily affixed.”

Justice R. Fred Lewis broke with the majority and joined with Justice Peggy Quince in a dissent based on the technology involved.

“Although the firearm may have relied upon an ignition mechanism used by similar firearms before 1918, it also featured a scope that was not found on weapons that were available in 1918,” wrote Lewis. “In my view, such a firearm cannot constitute an antique firearm as defined by Florida law.”

Lewis, however, was factually incorrect in his assertion. Brass-tubed telescopic rifle sights from Morgan James and others were available prior to the Civil War while both Stevens Arms and Winchester introduced commercial lines of rifle scopes in 1902 and 1909, respectively, and sold them via mail order — meaning either could have been in common use in Florida well before 1918.



How to Survive a Terrorist Attack

Large scale / mass casualty attacks are an unfortunate reality that everyone needs to prepare for to ensure that themselves and their loved ones make it out alive.  There are three primary factors to take into account when discussing the survivability of terrorist attacks. We will discuss each of these to better prepare you for the worst case scenario.


While some would recommend to avoid large groups of people at places such as malls or theatres during peak times of operation, this is not advice that a majority of people can implement in their daily lives. As a proud Canadian who enjoys the freedoms we have in this country, I would not advise you to restrict that freedom we have in any way. Terrorist attacks are designed to do exactly that, inflict terror upon a country and it’s people so that they don’t feel safe inside their own borders.

I believe we cannot under any circumstances allow the terrorists to take away our freedoms in any way, shape or form. There are many more practical ways to command your environment and live your day to day life while still mitigating risks.

Understand Cover VS Concealment.

In an scenario where firearms or explosives are used in an attack, you will need to understand the difference between the two in order to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Cover is any structure that will protect you from incoming rounds, explosive blasts and debris. In short, cover is protection as it will stop everything from reaching you. Examples of this are concrete or brick walls,  stone or marble blocks used in outdoor architecture or roadside jersey barriers.

Concealment is any structure that will disrupt the attackers sight line of you, but will not protect you from incoming rounds or explosive blasts and debris. In short, hiding behind concealment means the attacker cannot see you but will still be able to harm you. Examples of this are interior building walls made of wood and drywall, vehicles (bullets will rip through the thin metal of a vehicle frame quite easily) and foliage.

In order to fully command your environment you should be aware of the defensive advantages of your environment. In addition to this, you should be able to identify any threats within your immediate environment. 

Unattended bags, boxes or any type of luggage should be something to watch for. This is important to security working within airports for a good reason, as it’s unlikely someone will forget something as valuable to them as a bag or luggage full of their belongings.

Finding an unattended backpack or luggage left in the open of a crowded area should cause concern as it could be put there for malicious purposes.

An example of this was the improvised explosive device left in an unattended backpack at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013.

In addition to suspicious items, you should be watching for unusual activity from persons within your immediate area. This is not an easy task as you’re trying to identify an attacker before they have revealed themselves.

What your looking for is someone who stands out from the crowd. Any person about to engage in an attack will have their adrenaline flowing, which will have a very visible effect on their behaviour and fine motor skills. 

Watch for something as simple as an uneasiness or constant movement to something as obvious as erratic and over exaggerated movements to agitated behaviour.  An attack is not commonly done with a cool and level temperament as attackers will more than likely display signs of stress, anxiety or even anger.

Finally, know where your exits are. If you can’t be close to them, at least have a defined path set in mind to get to one quickly.


IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) – The most important piece of equipment you can have in an emergency situation is a First Aid Kit. Store it in your vehicle, on your persons if possible or anywhere you can access it quickly and easily.

Most deaths in these types of emergency situations occur from blood loss. While an average human body can survive a class 3 hemorrhage (loss of up to 30 – 40 percent of blood or 3 to 4 pints) without going into hypovolemic shock, anything past that point is very difficult to survive without immediate blood transfusions.

In the event of a terrorist attack there is a high probability that yourself or others nearby will become injured. Having a first aid kit filled with gauze, bandages, and a tourniquet (only to be used for extreme blood loss situations where amputation is alternative to death) will dramatically increase your survival rate.

Flashlight – The second most important piece of equipment that will contribute to the increase of your survival rate is a flashlight. In order for an attacker to fire rounds on a target they must have a visual on that target.

A bright flash of light will bleach (oversaturate) the retinal pigment causing temporary ‘blind spots’ in vision upwards of a few minutes depending on the intensity of the light. This will disrupt the attackers line of sight and give you enough time to seek cover or escape the area.

The same principals of this apply to the use of flash-bangs used by LE and MIL in order to incapacitate a hostile target.

In further ranges the light may not disrupt the attackers vision, but will still create a bright halo of light around your making it hard to distinguish your figure for sight acquisition.

Another option that many are advocates of is to conceal carry a firearm, though this is not always an option for most people.

There are many problems with conceal carrying, the most prominent is being mistaken for the shooter by first responders during a mass casualty event. Additionally, unless you have received extensive military or law enforcement training there is a high probability you will not be prepared to deal with the stress of the situation and to make good judgement calls in a rapidly unfolding scenario.

In a crowded room of people running around, easily identifying the threat as well as being able to engage the threat without causing collateral damage to nearby civilians is an extremely difficult task.

In Law Enforcement there is a priority in training to maintain 100% round accountability; meaning if you cannot take a shot without being absolutely certain that it will hit the target and not harm any civilians than you are not in a position to take that shot. Quite frankly, very few people are trained and qualified to perform this action, especially in a high stress, dynamic situation. 

While many people carry a pocket knife for around the house jobs and basic daily tasks, it is an extremely bad idea to engage an attacker with a knife. Even if the attacker isn’t armed with a firearm, theres an old saying that holds true here, “No one wins in a knife fight.”

The vast majority of knife fights end in dual casualties as a person will be able to take multiple fatal stab wounds during the fight but not succumb to the injuries until after the fight has ended.



First and foremost, trust your instincts.

Your body is extremely talented at determining threats especially when it comes to self preservation.

John Boyd’s OODA Loop theory is used heavily with the combat operations process, often at the strategic level in military operations. The OODA loop refers to the decision cycle ofobserve, orient, decide, and act. Your mind will naturally do this when determining wether something is a threat or not, but being aware of this process will help you make a conscious decision on how to act.

The Cooper Color Code is also something to implement when you are trying to maintain vigilance. The Color Code offers different levels of alertness as follows:

White: Unaware and unprepared.

Yellow: Relaxed alert. No specific threat situation. 

Orange: Specific alert. Something is not quite right and has your attention. 

Red: Condition Red is fight. Your mental trigger has been tripped.

According to the Cooper Code, you should always be in Code Yellow so that you are never caught off guard. If something doesn’t feel right, remove yourself from the situation even if no one else seems alarmed. It is better to leave and realize it’s a false alarm then to wait around and find out there is a threat but that it’s too late.

An example of this were the explosive blasts that occurred during a soccer match at the Stade de France. Loud blasts were heard during the game and a number of people were alarmed, though it was not until ten minutes after the first blast that people began to disperse.

If it feels wrong, then it probably is. Again, trust your instincts.

If you’ve found yourself in a situation that your instincts have told you is dangerous, the most important things you can do now is to MOVE.

This cannot be stressed enough, movement will save your life.

Having spent some time in the military and being proficient in firearms of all types, I can tell you even for someone who has spent a considerable amount of their life practicing firearms proficiency, it is still extremely difficult to hit a moving target, especially in a dynamic situation. In a scenario where a crowd of people are moving, you’re moving, the attacker is moving; the entire situation becomes very dynamic and adds a great level of difficulty for any attacker trying to make controlled shots.

During the Bataclan attacks it was unfortunate to hear a witness describe the situation by saying that after the first shots rang out people laid on the floor for cover.

This unfortunately made these civilians easy targets and no doubt contributed to the high death toll.

Another tactic that will help you survive;don’t follow the crowd. In dynamic situations attackers will be firing blindly into the largest groups of people as it is their purpose to inflict maximum casualties.

If possible, avoid main entrance/exits as that is where the majority of people will flock to. Think outside the box, exit out windows, hop railings; go against the flow of crowd.

Another reason to avoid the crowd when removing yourself from the attack area is that there’s a high probability that stampeding will take place. Many deaths have been caused by this. To avoid this, stay along the walls to be able to provide yourself with stability so that you wont be crushed or swept away by the moving crowd.

That being said, it is also important to note that bullet ricochets tend to travel along walls and floors. When a bullet is fired at a wall in some shallow degree of parallel, it will tend to ricochet and travel 6 to 9 inches along that wall. This means that they bullet will not bounce back away from the wall or floor, but will tend to travel along the wall once it has made contact with it.

Care should be taken to travel along walls to avoid stampeding people, but be aware that there is a danger area in the event of ricochets.

Get out of ground zero as there is a possibility of a secondary attack. An example of this were the Riyadh compound bombings in 2003, when a secondary explosive was set off after the first initial blast. This increased casualties as more people flooded the area to provide help to the already injured.

While there is no way to fully prepare for a terror attack, mitigating the risks in a common sense manner will dramatically increase your survival rate.  Taking these precautions will help you prepare for the worst, meaning you and your loved ones will have a better chance at survival.



Jewish Gun Leaders Come Out Firing

As a child growing up in the Long Island suburb of Lawrence, N.Y., Richard Feldman, the National Rifle Association’s first Jewish lobbyist, did not encounter many gun owners. He first held a firearm at the age of 12, at a Jewish summer camp shooting range. It was only a decade later, when serving on the Cambridge, Mass. police force, that Feldman came to the realization that “gun control does not equal crime control.”

Feldman is one of several activists for gun rights who stand out in a Jewish community that vocally supports regulating and limiting those rights.

Holding top positions in the NRA and public advocacy groups supportive of gun owners’ rights, Jewish gun backers draw on everything from the Holocaust to Israel’s experience in fighting terror to justify the battle against limiting access to guns.

“Jews don’t like to talk about their guns, because it is not politically correct,” said Feldman, a former regional political director for the NRA who now heads the Independent Firearms Owners Association. “People know it is an issue better to avoid.”

The Newtown, Conn., shootings this past December raised the issue of gun control to a top place on the agenda of organized Jewry, not to mention many Jewish members of Congress. Many organizations are not only expressing their support for measures aimed at limiting the sales of certain weapons, but are also seeking to mobilize the community to take a leading role on the issue. Jewish lawmakers in the Senate and the House of Representatives were among the first to introduce legislation supporting gun control following the December 14 shooting rampage that left 27 dead, 20 of them children of just 6 or 7.

But there are prominent Jews on the other side. Feldman, for example, was among the gun rights advocates Vice President Joe Biden invited to the White House for a January 10 dialog on legislation the administration is now developing to curb private citizens’ access to some types of arms and ammo.

The Jewish community has historically strongly supported gun control, although the issue has slipped in recent years to the bottom of the Jewish organizational agenda, reflecting the lack of interest in gun control on the national level.

Jewish support for tougher restrictions on guns is deep rooted. In part, it coincides with the community’s leaning toward the Democratic Party and toward the liberal side of the political spectrum. It’s a world in which gun control is part and parcel of a constellation of identifying issues. According to Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the former president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Jewish support for gun control is also a product of the fact that most American Jews live in metropolitan areas, where guns are more frequently associated with gang wars and drug deals than with firearms in individual homes for self-defense. A wholesome “gun culture” consisting of recreational hunting and target shooting is relatively rare in such areas and, in any case, not popular with Jews.

Jews affiliated with the Republican Party or who live in areas where gun ownership is widespread tend to demonstrate more support for gun rights. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, holds a top rating from the NRA and received $7,450 in campaign contributions this election cycle from the gun lobby. Still, even minor, seemingly incidental brushes that Cantor has had over the years with restrictions on unlimited access to guns — such as his appearance at a GOP rally for families held last October at a venue that banned firearms — have provoked attacks against him from a local pro-gun rights organization. At the event, dozens of signs were placed, noting that the NRA has endorsed Cantor, a measure seen as essential in order to overcome criticism of being soft on guns.

Democrats, even from the South, face a more complex situation. Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen owns a .38 Special, a police handgun that, he told the Forward, was given to his father by one of Elvis Presley’s bodyguards. Cohen has a license allowing him to carry a concealed weapon, but he does not go around with the gun.

“I support the right to carry pistols and rifles, but I don’t think it should be unlimited,” Cohen said. His legislative record reflects this approach. Cohen sponsored the bill allowing concealed weapons in Tennessee, but he added safeguards to the legislation. He also supports banning the sale of semi-automatic assault rifles and of high-capacity magazines, two of the proposed limitations that are due to be presented to Congress this year.

Cohen, who grew up in the South, said there are many Jewish residents in his district who “love their guns,” although he admitted that the Jewish community is not a “bastion” of gun culture. “There are no Hopalong Cohens,” he said.

Kentucky’s Jewish congressman, John Yarmuth, is an avid supporter of gun control, despite the fact that he represents a state that has many gun owners. Yarmuth, a Democrat, prides himself as being “the only member of the Kentucky delegation to receive an ‘F’ rating from the NRA.”

Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who retired from the House of Representatives after sustaining severe gunshots injuries during an assassination attempt, was also a gun owner who held a complex approach to gun control. Giffords supported a ban on the sale of assault weapons but, at the same time, opposed limits on carrying weapons in the District of Columbia, a battle that gun control advocates had lost in Congress. After the Newtown shooting, Giffords visited the town to express her condolences. She met with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a show of support for his campaign to limit the sale of guns.

Alan Gottlieb, one of America’s most vocal supporters of gun rights, grew up in New York City and, like many other Jewish pro-gun activists, encountered firearms only as an adult. Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation and head of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, is a prolific writer on the issue of gun rights. Like other Jewish supporters of access to guns, Gottlieb argues against the common perception that Jews are a rarity on the pro-gun side of the debate.

“The truth is that there are quite a lot of Jewish activists in the gun-rights movement,” he said, “but there is that perception that all Jews are on the other side.”

Gottlieb became involved in gun rights advocacy as a student, as he took up other conservative causes focusing on personal freedoms and limiting government.

Feldman, whose parents, a psychiatrist and a social worker, never owned guns, arrived at his views against gun control after college. During his stint as a cop, while responding to a theft call in North Cambridge, Feldman noticed that the property owner did not own a gun despite having been burglarized several times. The victim told Feldman he could not get a permit for one. Feldman found that the man had no criminal record. He concluded that the man had been rejected because he was a recent immigrant from Latin America.

“I had to revisit everything I knew about gun control,” he said, “I learned that the history of gun control in America is one of racism, sexism and elitism.”

Other leading Jewish voices on behalf of gun owners include Sandy Froman, an Arizona attorney who served as the NRA’s president from 2005 to 2007, and Alan Gura, an Israeli-born attorney. It was Gura who led some of the gun rights lobby’s courtroom successes, including McDonald v. Chicago in 2010. The landmark Supreme Court decision found that the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the people’s right to bear arms as part of a “well-regulated militia” applied to individuals even outside a militia context and thus limited the government’s right to regulate their individual use.

In conversations, pro-gun Jewish activists quickly pull out an entire set of arguments addressing each gun control measure, from limiting the sale of assault weapons, which they argue are no different from any other gun, through limiting magazine size, a move they claim is impractical and useless, to closing the gun show loophole, which they say has little to do with gun violence.

But Jewish gun backers also turn to Jewish history for support. “I wish there had been more armed Jews when Hitler came to power,” Gottlieb said. “I think the government should not have a monopoly on owning firearms.” Others argue that had the Jewish community been armed, Nazi SS units would have suffered losses that would have led Hitler to reconsider his plan to exterminate Europe’s Jews.

Michael Berenbaum, an internationally recognized scholar of the Holocaust, labeled this idea “preposterous.”

“The Germans conquered half the Soviet Union, and France and Poland, and the rest of Europe, against massive armies with huge weapons,” said Berenbaum, who was project director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. “Look at what it took to defeat the Germans.”

According to Berenbaum, “The huge disproportion of power held by the Nazis, and their readiness to use their power for total destruction” would not have been changed had Jewish civilians had guns. “The most you could say is, it might have caused the Nazis to have greater casualties, as it did in the Warsaw Ghetto. It would have exacted a cost. But the idea that Jews with guns would have stopped the Holocaust is not in the realm of the conceivable.”

Another argument frequently raised is that Israel, a country where guns are abundant, does not face a serious gun violence problem. Gun licensing in Israel, however, is a complicated process, and most firearms are held by military or police forces, not by citizens.

Going a step further, Gottlieb suggested that the perception of Jews as being opposed to gun rights has been fueled by anti-Semites and helps reinforce their stereotypes about Jews in America. “It strengthens the notion that Jews do not support the values held by most Americans,” he explained.