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Industry News: July 2001

By Robert Hausman

During a meeting at the 2001 SHOT Show, the newly formed, National Association of Firearms Retailers (NAFR) elected its officers. They are: Mark Daniels of MegaSports, Plainfield, IL, as NAFR’s first president; Bill Carter of Carter’s Country, Houston,TX, elected vice-president; and George Romanoff of Ace Sporting Goods, Washington, PA, voted in as secretary.

NAFR’s initial objectives include developing a certification program for retail sales personnel (to familiarize gun store employees with federal laws affecting the sale of firearms), holding continuing education seminars, participating in regular meetings with ATF and FBI/NICS operations personnel, and developing retailer-based shooting promotions to encourage increased consumer participation.

NAFR vp Carter, says, “The number one objective is to have a unified voice for American retailers.” Second is for the group to be present, “whenever rules and regulations regarding the sale of firearms are discussed. We would like to be able to present our “front-line” perspective to both the regulators as well as manufacturers.

“The retailers are the ones who have borne the brunt of most of the federal firearms regulations passed during the past eight years. We hope to improve all lines of communication between all aspects of the firearms industry and to be on the same page on as many issues as we can,” Carter explained.

Another NAFR objective is to encourage retailers to form their own state organizations, as the industry’s adversaries have been active at both the national and local levels.

As an example, Carter, who, in addition to his duties at NAFR, is also serving a fourth term as president of the Texas Gun Dealers’ Association, points out a record number of anti-gun bills have been filed in his home state in recent months. “Everything from placing an oppressive tax on ammo, to gun show initiatives, to repetition of national firearms laws at the state level has been proposed,” he says.

To make the organization as attractive as possible to retailers, NAFR member benefits include discounted liability insurance, a legal defense network, reduced credit card transaction fees, prospective employee background checks, and media training. Dues are based on the size of the retailer’s business. NAFR is headquartered within the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Newtown, CT, offices.

The initiative by some retailers taken last year, to form a national organization known as the National Coalition of Firearms Retailers, has been put on hold. Wal-Mart reaffirms its intention to continue gun sales. In response to rumors that it was considering discontinuing gun sales, Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, has issued a statement denying the move.

“We have sold firearms for the past 38 years, and we have no plans to discontinue this,” the company said in a statement intended to reassure its customers. The retailer has come under pressure in recent months by anti-gun groups to get out of firearms retailing.

One modification to this policy involves the company’s recently opened store in New Tampa, FL, which will sell firearms and related items only through special-order catalog sales. The store’s close proximity to a school was cited by the company as the reason for the policy’s adoption. The decision won’t affect other stores.

Legislative Update

Canada has adopted new gun regulations for visitors. Under the new Canadian Firearms Act, visitors with guns must complete a Declaration Form, have it confirmed by a customs officer, and pay a $50 (Canadian) fee. Once confirmed, the form acts as a temporary license and registration certificate for 60 days, and may be renewed without an additional fee.

Visitors who intend to borrow a firearm while in Canada, must obtain a Temporary Borrowing License for $30 before arrival. A confirmed Declaration Form and/or Temporary Borrowing License are required for visitors to buy ammo while in Canada. More information can be found through the Internet at the Canadian government web site: www.cfc.gc.ca.

The Philadelphia, PA, city council has passed a new gun registration law requiring residents with firearm permits to annually submit a list of all the guns they own. A legal challenge to the law is likely, as the city has twice before attempted to enact gun controls that were subsequently overturned by the courts.

Two state gun owner groups have filed a suit against Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge (R) and State Police Commissioner Paul Evanko, for keeping a database of legal gunowners. The Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League and the Lehigh Valley Firearms Coalition say they filed suit as the state’s actions are in direct violation of law.

Bills have been introduced in both the Connecticut and Massachusetts State legislatures to require manufacturers to provide spent shell casings with guns intended for sale in those states. Many manufacturers have already adopted policies requiring their distributors not to ship handguns into Massachusetts, due to the state’s “consumer protection” legislation which sets arbitrary firearm performance standards that guns must meet before being legal for sale. Handgun sales in Massachusetts have declined greatly in recent years and many gun makers feel the remaining consumer demand is not worth the extra marketing effort required. California is also considering “ballistic fingerprinting.”

While the firearms industry rejoices in the Senate’s confirmation of John Ashcroft as U.S. Attorney General, an almost forgotten figure from the election campaign is re-emerging as a possible spoiler of the widely-held “no new gun control” prediction of the last election’s results.

Arizona senator and former presidential hopeful, John McCain (R), is forming alliances with left-leaning Democrats on several issues, including gun control. McCain, who, during his presidential campaign came out in favor of legislation that would have essentially ended gun shows and placed severe restrictions on all private sellers of firearms, is holding talks with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) on re-invigorating support for a gun show ban, says The Wall Street Journal.

The suit brought against the firearms industry by the city of Gary, Indiana has been dismissed. Calling the case an unconstitutional attempt to regulate interstate commerce, Lake County Indiana Superior Court Judge James J. Richards on January 12 dismissed the city of Gary’s case against 18 manufacturers, one distributor, and six retailers.

In his opinion, Judge Richards called the suit; a “radical departure” from established case law and said the suit was an attempt at “arbitrary social reform seeking to create judge-made gun laws.” But, the city has since amended its complaint and re-filed.

By a 4 to 3 vote, the Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to review the city of Cincinnati’s suit against the industry previously dismissed by two lower state courts. Last August, a state appellate court, in a 3 - 0 decision rejected the city’s appeal of a county court ruling dismissing the suit.

Gun buyer background checks declined last year. In a statistic reflecting the downturn in sales during the latter half of 2000, National Instant Criminal Background Check System checks of gun buyers declined in 2000. Through December 27, 2000, the Federal Bureau of Investigation ran 8.4 million background checks, compared to 9.2 million in 1999 - nearly a 9% decrease.

Remington Arms Co.’s CEO, Tommy Millner, called on gunwriters to continue to engage in “journalistic activism” to help preserve civilian firearms ownership, during the annual Remington press conference at the SHOT Show.

“Your words, and millions of dollars from the industry, won the fight we faced last November 7. But the fight did not stop on Nov. 7, rather the war started,” Millner exclaimed. “The adversaries of those things we hold so dear proved again they will do or say anything to gain or keep power. Two short years from now we face an onslaught to regain the House of Representatives. A loss of this body can be damaging to everyone we serve.”

Millner told the writers they should think of themselves as being “journalistic activists,” for the right to keep and bear arms. “Speak out to your readers. Tell them our whole survival as a way of life is on the line in 2004 and 2006. Frame their opinions, mold their impressions. Be more than a product critic and reviewer. Be an activist for those things we want our grandchildren to enjoy,” Millner exhorted the writers.

Product News

Remington also showed its new Integrated Security System (ISS), an on-board firearm bolt locking device. The ISS works with a turn of a special “J”-shaped key to render the firearm inoperable. Two distinct safety systems have been developed. One for bolt action firearms, which prevents locking the bolt in the closed or “fire” position, and the other for products that utilize a common fire control that locks the safety button in the “safe” position. Most Remington “cross bolt safety” shotguns and rifles, and nearly all Remington bolt action rifles (with the exception of law enforcement guns and several other models) will be equipped with the ISS locking device.

U.S. commercial arms sales increased by about $20 billion in 1999, according to the U.S. State Department. The total value of all arms license agreements, which totaled $25.3 billion, and technical service agreements, which totaled $28.3 billion, was $53.6 billion. The bulk of the increase was in defense service agreements.

U.S. Army infantry soldiers training for urban combat scenarios at Fort Polk, LA, are testing a couple of new tools. The first, is the Simon Breaching Launcher System, an M16-A2 rifle-launched explosive designed to blow through doorways. The round is fixed to the muzzle of the M16 and is propelled by a special blank cartridge at distances from 10 to 35 meters. Another version will allow launch of the breaching round with a live 5.62 cartridge. The charge is capable of penetrating steel security doors as well as solid wood exterior doors.

The other item is a new explosive cutting tape with an adhesive backing for application. When detonated, the rope-like explosive can blast through a triple brick wall or up to 8-inches of reinforced concrete.

Walther USA is planning some major changes in its product lines. PPK and PPK/S assembly has been moved from the Black Creek production facility in Gadson, AL, to Smith & Wesson’s plant in Houlton, ME (Walther USA is 50% owned by S&W).

The new PPK/E model recently shown at trade shows will not be available in the U.S., the company has decided. The design could not meet the strict criteria for legal handguns sold in Massachusetts and the company has decided to only market products that can be sold in all states. The PPK/E model will be available in other countries. The famous Walther PP model is no longer imported to the U.S., but is still available in Europe and elsewhere.

Both the PPK and PPK/S are undergoing design changes that will allow the pistols to be in compliance with varying state laws. Specifically, both models will soon have a firing pin safety incorporated within their designs, as well as a magazine disconnect feature, an ambidextrous safety lever, and three-dot sights. These and other changes will appear in the PPK/S model first, and the PPK later on.

Shipments of a new .22 caliber version of the P99 are due in from Germany in April and are expected to go on sale shortly thereafter. This model incorporates a key-locking device within the frame. There are also several new air gun models planned for introduction later in the year.

Finally, the recently discontinued Walther TPH pocket pistol is expected to be brought back, probably in .32 caliber. The former Alabama-made .22 rimfire and .25 ACP TPH pistols reportedly suffered from reliability problems due to the large number of cast parts they contained.

Brownells, Inc., the gunsmith supply house, is named the exclusive U.S. distributor for the Hellweg “K” line of Kydex(r) holsters.

HSSHF “On Budget”

Finally, the fiscal third quarter financial summary for the industry’s new collective public relations and legal defense effort, the Hunting and Shooting Sports Heritage Fund, shows the Fund is “on budget” in terms of both income and expenditures.

Year to date (as of December 31, 2000) income was $7,089,000, which is on pace with the total income projection of $11,170,000 (the income projection was increased by more than $1 million from $10,075,000 at the November 15 Board of Governors meeting).

Total Fund expenditures came to $6,582,741, with the majority ($4,915,068) going to communications programs, mainly the home gun safety effort “Project HomeSafe” and the “Get Out the Vote” efforts for the 2000 elections. Legal and legislative expenses were just over $1 1/2 million. Legal and legislative expenses are expected to grow as the Fund’s Firearms Litigation Support Committee is expected to approve a number of major legal and litigation related expenses.


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