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CNN Today

Smith & Wesson Agrees to Gun Safety Settlement

Aired March 17, 2000 - 2:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The nation's biggest gunmaker has bowed to the pressure of a threatened lawsuit and agreed to major changes in the way it does business. Smith & Wesson will change the way it designs, distributes and advertises guns to make them safer and help keep them out of the wrong hands. The deal was announced by the government a little over an hour ago.

And as we await a response from President Clinton, we turn to CNN's Major Garrett at the White House for more about this -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, as you said, the president will address this issue from the Oval Office in mere moments. White House officials tell CNN the president is going to describe this as a landmark agreement with a key member of the gun industry. The president is hopeful that this landmark agreement, as he would describe it, with Smith & Wesson will encourage other members of the gun industry to follow suit. That's how White House officials have described the president's remarks to CNN.

He will mention in his remarks that he took the step in December of threatening -- having the federal government threatening lawsuits against gun manufacturers unless something was done, a) to make guns safer, and to keep them out of the hands of people who would use them to commit crimes.

The last couple of days have been crucial in White House negotiations with Smith & Wesson. White House officials tell CNN that deals of this agreement came together only this morning. White House officials weren't confident the agreement could be worked out last night, but details were still worked out very, very early this morning.

Now, the agreement and the settlement with Smith & Wesson is wide-ranging. It covers many, many fronts. A couple of the key points, to summarize: Smith & Wesson has agreed that it will install mandatory gun locks and other child safety devices on all guns and to introduce smart-gun technology in newly designed handguns. It will also put a hidden second serial number on handguns to allow for easier tracing of firearms.

On the sales and distribution of guns, Smith & Wesson will not permit the sale of guns by its dealers at gun shows -- at these weekend gun shows unless the buyers undergo a background check. And Smith & Wesson is making it clear to its distributors that it doesn't care how long it takes this background check to be performed, it wants it performed fully and satisfactorily.

Also, new purchasers of guns will have to undergo safety training purchasers and must demonstrate they can operate guns safely -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Major, these are about guns in the future. What about guns that are now in existence?

GARRETT: Well, this agreement only covers future manufacture of weapons by Smith & Wesson. That's a clear problem that the president and the White House can't really do anything about. These guns are already in circulation. But they are very, very happy -- White House officials are very happy. This is a new agreement about future gun sales, future manufacture of firearms. And as the president is going to say in his remarks, he strongly hopes that other manufacturers of weapons will follow suit and there will no longer be needs for threats of lawsuit, but there'll be safer guns and a better distribution system -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, Major Garrett outside the White House.

Inside the White House, we can see they're setting up in the Oval Office for the president to speak about this. We'll carry that for you live when he begins.

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