Smith & Wesson’s ousted CEO Ed Shultz doesn’t have any regrets.
In an extended interview with Mass Live, Shultz told the outlet that he still believes he made the right decision when he inked a gun control deal with the Clinton administration that nearly bankrupted the company.
“I don’t regret it,” Shultz said. “At one point, both sides were genuinely trying to come to some agreement.”
Shultz came to that “agreement” with President Bill Clinton after a mountain of lawsuits leveled by the anti-gun lobby threatened to send Smith & Wesson into bankruptcy proceedings. But while the National Rifle Association and other gun companies worked to pass legislation protecting gun makers from frivolous lawsuits, Shultz raised the white flag and came to the anti-gun table.
“Today I am pleased to report that a key member of the industry has decided to set a powerful example of responsibility,” Clinton said at a press conference in 2000. “For the very first time, a gun manufacturer has committed to fundamentally change the way that guns are designed, distributed and marketed.
As Clinton himself explained, Smith & Wesson agreed to include locking devices and “other safety features” on its firearms; develop “smart guns” that can be fired only by the adults who own them; “cut off” dealers who sell guns that turn up at crime scenes; require all its dealers not to sell at gun shows unless every dealer conducts background checks; develop new firearms that cannot accept “high capacity” magazines; and work with ATF to provide “ballistics fingerprints” for all its firearms.
In return, Clinton and his gun-ban allies agreed to call off their dogs and drop the lawsuits against Smith & Wesson.
The reaction from the Second Amendment community was swift and decisive. The NRA described the deal as “an act of craven self-interest,” and other industry leaders quickly organized a boycott.
“Smith & Wesson, Inc., a British-owned company, recently became the first to run up the white flag of surrender and run behind the Clinton-Gore lines, leaving its competitors in the U.S. firearms industry to carry on the fight for the Second Amendment,” the NRA said.
One of the nation’s largest gun wholesalers decided to stop selling Smith & Wesson products, and sales and stocks plunged.
Before long, Smith & Wesson’s British owner decided to sell the company and Shultz was ousted.
SEE ALSO: Concealed Carry Perfection? Smith & Wesson’s Shield Plus Takes a Legend to the Next Level – Full Review
Shultz’s decision to compromise with the anti-gun lobby has had far-ranging consequences even to this day. The gun ban media still covers the story as a warning against the NRA’s power, and anti-gun politicians use the incident to argue that gun companies should be forced to change their manufacturing and distribution practices.
Most recently, the government of Mexico, which is suing Smith & Wesson for supposedly arming cartels, referenced Shultz’s statements in its lawsuit.
“Defendants are fully aware that these safety features could, and would, prevent shootings that cause injury and death… Smith & Wesson’s chief executive officer at the time of the 2000 Agreement admitted that these safety measures could save lives,” the lawsuit said.
For his part, Shultz seems to have fully embraced his anti-gun stance. Where before he described himself as a “rabid gun owner,” he told Mass Live that he’s not a “gun guy.”
Asked why people buy and shoot guns, Shultz responded with the kind of out-of-touch explanation gun owners might expect from a man who caved to the anti-gun lobby.
“Immediate satisfaction,” he said. “You can see that you hit the target. It’s not like golf, where you make a great shot but you have to wait until the end of the round and then you add up your score to see how you did. It’s like mowing the lawn. You get that sense of satisfaction because you can look back and see that you did something.”
Fortunately for gun owners, today’s Smith & Wesson is a far cry from Shultz’s organization. Rather than stop or alter their manufacture of AR-15s and other modern sporting rifles, current Smith & Wesson CEO Mark Smith made the tough decision this month to move much of its manufacturing from the gun control bastion of Massachusetts to Tennessee.