WASHINGTON -- A coalition of 28 cities and counties aims to use collective buying power to give preference to gun makers that follow the lead of Smith & Wesson -- signing an agreement to produce safer firearms and stick to a code of responsible conduct.
''Government at every level should use their procurement policies to support manufacturers who take responsible steps to make guns safer and to keep guns out of the wrong hands,'' said Andrew Cuomo, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, announcing the formation of a new gun-safety coalition.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Cuomo urged communities of every size to join the effort. He said preferential buying can prod the gun industry to fall in line behind the Smith & Wesson agreement because sales to law enforcement agencies represent 20 percent to 30 percent of the U.S. gun market.
Mayor Bill Campbell of Atlanta said his city buys ''about a million dollars (worth) of guns each year.''
When the purchasing power of other cities is added the gun manufacturers ''will comply or they will cease operations,'' Campbell said.
''It's common sense for police to buy guns from a company that makes it harder for criminals to get hold of guns that can be used against police and civilians,'' Cuomo said.
Last week, in an agreement announced by President Clinton, Smith & Wesson said it would quickly install gun locks on all the weapons it sells, introduce ''smart gun'' technology permitting weapons to be fired only by their owners and bar sales of its weapons at gun shows without a background check.
The company broke industry ranks and changed its policy in exchange for a promise that a lawsuit against it would be dropped.
Reacting to that development, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation to block lawsuits by the federal government against gun makers, calling such suits ''extortion'' and an attempt to impose gun control over congressional objections.
Two gunmakers -- Glock Inc. and Browning -- announced they will not sign voluntary gun-safety agreements following the Smith & Wesson model.
Cuomo said Wednesday's announcement was an open attempt to keep the pressure on those and other gun makers.
''Consumers want a safer America'' Cuomo said. ''Because of Smith & Wesson's agreement we now know a safer America is possible. And we demand it.''
Joining the coalition were the attorneys general of Connecticut, Maryland and New York and mayors or county officials in California, Connecticut, Florida Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Wisconsin.
The list included Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, St. Louis, Boston and Florida's Miami-Dade County.
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