May 2000

Boycott Smith & Wesson?

I received an email on March 23 at 5:26:48 p.m. from Phil and Sandy Harpine of Leesville, South Carolina. The email header read only this: “S&W sell out.” The body of the email message was nearly as short. It read: “Please do not use one cent of my subscription to test, write about or reference any S&W product!!!!!!”

And that wasn’t the first communication I’d had on the subject. Two days earlier, the Gun Owners of America group had issued an email alert whose header read: “Smith & Wesson Sell-out: Boycott!” The headline on the email read, “GOA Announces Boycott of Clinton & Wesson—Sell-out worse than originally reported.”

As you might expect, I’ve gotten nearly 100 pieces of email, faxes, and snail mail about the S&W situation—every single bit of it lambasting S&W’s deal with the Clinton administration. Though I appreciate the sentiments of the letter writers, and on an emotional level agree with them, I’ve decided that for Gun Tests’ part, we’ll continue to review and recommend S&W products. Our mission is to stick to the facts as we unearth them. Other factors, such as politics, are outside our purview, except in this page 2 space. If readers don’t want to buy S&W products because of reasons outside our tests, that’s their business. Our focus is to tell them if S&W products are better, or worse, than competing ones.

In my view, that solution best fits with the magazine’s mission, which mixes the best of the First and Second Amendments—unstinting, truthful, hard-hitting commentary about guns. Beyond that, consumers’ decisions will ultimately decide how this shakes out. But one thing is clear: The company has thrown away years of goodwill and brand equity in the gun market, which will certainly have a negative effect. How much, time will tell.

But just as clear to me, at least, was that Smith was put in a lose/lose by the Clintonistas. If S&W didn’t settle, the company would be subject to death by a thousand litigation cuts, as HUD secretary Andrew Cuomo said. If Smith settles, it alienates its customer base so badly that the company might not ever recover.

Outcomes: Clinton wins either way.

The real solution, of course, was for us to have avoided or thrown out this administration when we had the chance, in 1992, in 1996, or during impeachment. But lassitude and inattention by gun owners and lack of pressure on Republican leaders, and our inability to convince uninformed “stock market” voters that Clinton is completely corrupt, has led us to this point.

Thus, it all comes back to you and me, the NRA, the industry, and everyone who loves and enjoys gun ownership. We fell asleep at the switch, perhaps as long as 25 years ago. We didn’t recruit and educate the current crop of voters, and we’re paying for it now, and depending on how things go in the November 2000 election—we will pay for it into the future as well.

-Todd Woodard