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Gun Industry Investigated for Antitrust Violations

    An antitrust investigation has begun to see if gunmakers are targeting Smith & Wesson in retaliation for its agreement to put safety locks on handguns, The New York Times reported Thursday.   The probe is being conducted under state laws in New York, Connecticut and Maryland, said Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's attorney general. He said more states were expected to become involved and subpoenas were imminent.

     Earlier this month, Smith & Wesson agreed to include safety locks with all handguns and pistols  -- external locks will be on the weapons in 60 days and internal locks installed within two years.   New firearms would not be allowed to accept magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.   The company also agreed to devote 2 percent of firearms revenues every year to developing "smart" technology that limits a gun's use to its rightful owner. The gunmaker, in addition, will not advertise or market its products in a way that appeals to juveniles or criminals, such as ads claiming guns are fingerprint-proof.

In exchange, a number of municipalities, states and the federal government agreed to drop threatened lawsuits over gun violence.  However, officials told the Times that other gun manufacturers and dealers opposed to the settlement have since put financial pressure on Smith & Wesson, based in Springfield, Massachusetts.  

A top wholesaler will no longer carry company weapons, retailers will not sell Smith & Wesson products and the National Rifle Association has accused the company of surrendering to Clinton administration demands, the Times reported.

"We are seeing behavior on the part of Smith & Wesson's competitors that raises the specter of illegal antitrust activity," New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said. "This is serious stuff."

Robert Delfay, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, denied the accusation.   "I could not be more confident that these are just independent actions by businessmen," Delfay said.

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More States Join Antitrust Probe


Massachusetts, Florida and California have joined other states in an antitrust probe of the gun industry, Reuters reported April 5.

The probe is aimed at determining whether U.S. gun companies are trying to stop Smith & Wesson from making its guns safer. The industry is dissatisfied with Smith & Wesson because the company signed an agreement requiring trigger locks and other measures in return for being dropped from a sweeping lawsuit against the industry.

The three states join Connecticut, Maryland and New York. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is spearheading the investigation, expects more states to join the probe, as well.

To date, Blumenthal said, more than 20 subpoenas have been issued for firearms manufacturers, distributors and others. "We have issued a number of subpoenas and more will be forthcoming this week and next," he said.

Gun Rights Group Calls on AGs to Investigate Conspiracy

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