Backlash From Gun Control Plagues Gore, Smith & Wesson

By Cheryl K. Chumley | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( - Smith & Wesson's agreement with the government to implement various gun control measures has led in part to the layoff of 125 workers at its Massachusetts plant, a communications official for the company said.

"That's probably a contributing factor," said Ken Jorgensen, the director of marketing and communications for Smith & Wesson in Springfield, Mass., where the layoffs will take affect. "But the entire industry is down."

Massachusetts gun dealers - some of whom had predicted Smith & Wesson's March settlement would end in layoffs - were more blunt in their appraisals of the situation, also attacking Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore's recent debate and campaign assurances to uphold the rights of hunters as another example of what they called Gore's political dishonesty.

"I don't care if he suddenly warms up to the gun issue," said Chuck Fay, the former owner and current manager of Middleboro Gun Shop in Middleboro, Mass. "Everybody knows he's a liar, and why should this particular issue be any different? He's still a liar."

Fay's comments stem from the Clinton Administration's successful efforts to compel Smith & Wesson to tighten its gun control standards. According to the National Rifle Association, the gun manufacturer now requires its dealers to endure "14-day waiting periods" for sales, "bans of affordable self-defense handguns," and laws forcing them to pay for "anti-gun advertising."

In return, Smith & Wesson was to be spared the threat of lawsuits from various municipalities angry over the effects of gun violence.

Big money was at stake for the corporation, according to Smith & Wesson's Internet site. Boston alone, for example, sought $100 million - an amount that would have "dwarfed ... all [the company's] profits of the 1990s."

Gore, in his capacity as vice president and during the majority of his campaign platform speeches, has consistently favored federal regulations requiring stricter control of the gun industry. Recent media reports and debate comments, however, have suggested that he is now trying to tone down that image by focusing more on his endorsement of a hunter's right-to-carry rather than on his previously publicized support for trigger locks and waiting periods.

Gun dealers in Massachusetts, still angered with what they perceived as the administration's Second Amendment bias and Smith & Wesson's cave-in to pressure, refuse to accept Gore's latest reported tactics or forgive the gun manufacturer for its actions.

"Everyone is going to be voting for Bush," Fay said, describing his customers' attitudes toward Gore and Smith & Wesson. "It's not looking good for Gore. In this year, we're finding here that people who have never voted before are voting, and it's for Bush. It's strictly the gun issue."

Robert Espinosa, with B & G Sporting, Inc. in Westfield, Mass., said the deal between the administration and Smith & Wesson was fated to end with layoffs for the gun manufacturer, and, according to Espinosa, his customers have little interest in mending the rift caused by S & W's deal with the White House.

"What we saw [in March] was the government and Smith & Wesson trying to dictate to private businesses," Espinosa said. "People are still very much upset. They feel like they've been sold out. I think when you see the administration change ... into Republican, you'll see Smith & Wesson try to renegotiate" the settlement agreement, and soften some of the gun control agreements.

Both Fay and Espinosa said the layoff of 125 workers from Smith & Wesson - due to occur between Oct. 20 and Oct. 27, Jorgensen said - was directly related to the settlement with the government, after upset customers boycotted the corporation and drove down the profit levels.

Peter Tache, manager of M & M Sporting Goods Company, Inc. in Plymouth, Mass., said that while he did not understand consumers' anger with Smith & Wesson, whose executives were only trying to remain solvent and afloat, Gore had little chance of changing his image of gun control advocate so late in the political campaign.

"Gore has been on both sides of every issue, so why should this one be any different?" Tache asked. "I think gun advocates are going to see through that, they're not going to trust" his attempts to moderate his platform and image.