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Smith & Wesson Must Die
By L. Neil Smith

Over the past couple of weeks, a third of my e-mail has concerned a decision of the Smith & Wesson company to sign an "agreement" with the Clinton Administration -- supposedly in order to avoid massive state lawsuits -- to act as if the Second Amendment had never been written.

What began as a depressing event -- foreshadowing, many feared, the end of private gun ownership -- has suddenly turned into something else. Gun Owners of America announced what promises to be an effective boycott against S&W. One by one, other companies told the Clintonistas where to shove their "agreement". When everybody said the Austrians would geek, they didn't, and neither did the Belgians -- although Ruger and Beretta are lying low -- and distributors and dealers have started sending S&W products back to Springfield, where they came from.

Most recently, S&W's Chicago lawfirm has quit them.

Even Utah Senator Orrin Hatch -- arguably the most evil individual in politics today -- could see which way the wind was blowing and has introduced legislation in the Senate to forbid any further federal participation in lawsuits against gun companies. And a credible move is now underway in the congress to render the S&W "agreement" null and void.

It's sad to think that S&W, which predates the War between the States, introduced the self-contained metallic cartridge, and in the 1980s gave us the wonderful "Ladysmith" program -- encouraging women to learn to defend themselves by redesigning weapons specifically to fit the female hand -- has sunk to the low, crawling, yellow-bellied pusillanimity that signing Clinton's "agreement" required. But the fact is, S&W never did make managerial decisions particularly well, whether it involved Second Amendment politics or merchandising of weapons.

Just in my lifetime, S&W has come up with bonnet-bees -- or some focus panel has, or some overly-blonde vice president's wife -- so stultifyingly imbecilic that it's embarrassing even thinking about them. Back in the 60s, when they were owned by something called Bangor Punta (which always sounded to me like one of Tarzan's animal friends) they called publicly for handgun registration. This latest display of the white feather is hardly unprecedented. They've always been Second Amendment weaklings, likely due to their location in the only state carried by George McGovern, and the fact that -- despite their actual sales numbers -- they've always seen themselves primarily as a police outfitter.

Managerial decisions? If ever there was a "suicidal corporation", S&W is it. Their .41 Magnum Model 58 Military and Police -- featured prominently in my first novel, The Probability Broach -- is a slick, no-nonsense fighting instrument that, employing two cartridge power levels, can take a man down or stop a car with only a little added weight or bulk compared to the traditional (and woefully inadequate) police .38 Special. One of the finest combat revolvers ever conceived, S&W discontinued it, rather than producing it in stainless steel -- and in .44 Magnum and .45 Colt -- as anyone with any brains would have done.

Managerial decisions? In the 1990s S&W had somebody working for them who created what we all ended up calling the "gun of the week" program, under which S&W came out with more innovative concepts over the short span of a year than they'd introduced in the 50 preceding years. Of course the man responsible was run out of the ancient outfit with extreme prejudice and to this day they're ashamed to talk about him.

Managerial decisions? In my capacity as a competitive shooter and retired gunsmith, S&W's Model 610 was technologically and historically the best revolver ever produced anywhere by anyone. Naturally, after only a year or two of production and almost no attempt to promote it to gun buyers or any other part of the public, they discontinued its manufacture.

Managerial decisions? There are those who may disagree, but again, in my opinion as a competitor and a gunsmith, S&W never could make decent semiautomatic pistols, although they've wasted several fortunes trying to get it right -- and failing every time. Their incompetence may even account, at least in part, for the remarkable longevity of Colt's 1911A1. Having shot (and repaired) many S&W autos and listened to the lamentations of their owners, I have never been moved to buy one.

S&W revolvers are something else altogether. Magnificent "engines of destruction" made legendary (most recently) by Clint Eastwood's " Dirty Harry", they occupy a different plane of existence. I love them all. My collection includes a .38, a .357 Magnum with an adjustable front sight, a 10mm auto (that's the M610 I mentioned above, a sixgun chambered for the 10mm autopistol cartridge -- it also shoots .40 S&W), a .41 Magnum, a .44 Magnum, and a .45 ACP that works the same as the 10mm. Once again, as a shooter and gunsmith, I agree they're a trifle antiquated, designwise, fragile compared with Ruger's output. But nothing can match their eye-pleasing elegance and hand-pleasing grace.

I risk boring the non-gunners (and non-wheelgunners) among my readers because I want them to understand fully -- in technicolor and 3D -- how painful it is for me to write the next few paragraphs. The proposed boycott of S&W and other measures are good as far as they go. I support them all wholeheartedly. However they don't go nearly far enough.

Smith & Wesson must die.

I'm not saying that they don't go nearly far enough to satisfy our purely emotional desire for justice, retribution, even revenge. I'm saying that they don't go nearly far enough to guarantee our continued survival.

Smith & Wesson must die.

Smith & Wesson must be amputated from the American social body like the gangrenous excrescence it has become and thrown out with the rest of the medical/political waste. Otherwise the infection will spread.

Smith & Wesson must die.

Understand that it's going to take more than a boycott; S&W was prepared for that or they'd never have signed Clinton's "agreement". Being owned by an English holding company, it's more than likely that their "surrender" was a put-up job to begin with, a gift from Tony Blair, intended to give Clinton what he needs to destroy an entire industry -- exactly as he's promised his comrades under international agreements he's made to eliminate every personally owned weapon in the world.

Smith & Wesson must die.

I've heard that the S&W CEO -- in a manner foully reminiscent of the late Republican National Committee chairman Lee Atwater -- has been confiding to the media that his customers are "a little crazy just now, but they'll be back". What that tells me is that this time -- unlike many similar moments over the past 50 years -- we can't be satisfied to fend off the latest attack and survive with minimal losses.

This time it has to cost them something. Have no qualms about it. A corporation isn't private property -- it's only an extension of the state. Yes, that's what I said. In applying to the state for special powers and immunities, a corporation becomes an _extension_ of the state.

Smith & Wesson must die.

A boycott is not enough. Our goal must be to make life completely impossible for S&W -- in exactly the same way anti-nuclear activists made life impossible for the nuclear power industry in the 1960s and 1970s. We must interdict S&W's sales to government agencies at every level, starve the company, and kill it. For those who have the means, we must find judges who will issue injunctions against city, county, or state purchases -- especially preferential purchases -- of S&W products.

Smith & Wesson must die.

For those who don't, picketing public buildings is an alternative, as is attending the meetings of your local city council or county commission. Remind them that they've taken what's supposed to be a sacred oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Tell them that, in choosing to do business with a foreign corporation savaging the Bill of Rights, they're violating both the letter and the spirit of that oath.

Smith & Wesson must die.

Get every one of your gunny friends to help. If you see a S&W auto or revolver in a cop's holster, don't bother him -- in these post-Waco days he'll probably kill you if you do, and cook you, and eat you, and get a commendation for it -- but find out if your city has a contract with S&W and demand that it be terminated immediately on the grounds (if all else fails) that the company falls short of Bill of Rights compliance.

Smith & Wesson must die.

Lawyers among us need to injoin HUD and other government agencies prepared to reward S&W for its cowardly behavior. One of the goodies Clinton promised S&W (and anybody else who signs on) is preferential treatment in the purchase of weapons by the the Department of Housing and Urban Development and similar agencies. (I was unaware that HUD is a major weapons buyer -- that's something, in itself, that should be looked into.) I could be mistaken, but doesn't that sound illegal to you?

Whatever happened to competitive bidding?

Smith & Wesson must die.

Choke off S&W's sales for six months while the courts muddle the whole thing, and S&W will miraculously find the grounds they need to abrogate the deal. It's either that or be thrown onto the cliche-heap of hisory. As New York's nasty attorney general can attest -- he's the disappointed little creep whose cherished plans have backfired and who's now trying to argue that a boycott is a violation of antitrust laws -- it was signed under extreme duress that he himself helped apply.

(This is the pocket Nazi who warned gun companies to comply with his demands or prepare to greet their bankruptcy attorneys at their door. What they need to tell him is that times change and regimes change with them. He will learn to obey the highest law of the land or prepare to greet federal marshals at his door with a big, noisy collection of manacles, leg-irons, and belly-chains, and TV cameras to record the moment as they shove him into the Black Maria and haul him away.)

Smith & Wesson must die.

In the long run, this war will be won in the court of popular opinion. We've always known -- and now, thanks to Gary Kleck and John Lott, we can prove -- that guns and gun ownership save lives. Which means that anything or anybody who interferes with unencumbered ownership of and free access to guns endangers lives. In today's battle of sound bites and slogans, that translates as "S&W kills kids".

We need to talk publicly about S&W's "Kid Killer Kontrakt".

Smith & Wesson must die.

If you ever hope to live in a civilization where you can walk into a hardware store, put your cash on the counter, and walk out with the weapon of your choice -- without ever having produced identification or signing even a single piece of paper -- then Smith & Wesson must die.

Maybe once they're bankrupt, no more than a name, and in the hands of pro-gun Americans again, we can go back to buying their beautiful revolvers.

Smith & Wesson must die.

PUBLIC NOTICE: henceforward, I shall be calling the cartridge formerly known as ".40 S&W" by a new name -- ".40 Liberty" -- to disassociate one of the greatest implements of self-defense ever conceived from the cowardly corporation doing its best to eradicate the very concept of self-defense, and to remind everybody to boycott that corporation and interdict its sales to all government agencies. -- L. Neil Smith

Permission to redistribute this article is herewith granted by the author -- provided that it is reproduced unedited, in its entirety, and appropriate credit given.

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Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human liberty; it is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. William Pitt

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