What Happened When a Major Gun Company Crossed the NRA

Share:
A firearms retailer examines a Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade show, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

A firearms retailer examines a Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade show, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

January 16, 2015

Smith & Wesson, the storied American gun company, is today a proud supporter of the NRA.

In 2012, the company signed on to a four-year sponsorship of one of the NRA’s promotional programs. And its new chief executive, James Debney, was inducted into the NRA’s Golden Ring of Freedom — the highest ranking of donors, reserved for those who donate $1 million or more. It comes with a golden jacket with the NRA insignia on the breast pocket.

In a statement hailing the award, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, said: “Smith & Wesson is a valued corporate partner in NRA’s fight to preserve the Second Amendment and we are grateful for their dedication to our shared American values.”

But the relationship wasn’t always so friendly.

In the late ’90s, Smith & Wesson was facing a major lawsuit filed by cities and states that blamed the company for rampant gun violence. The company stood to lose millions. So in 2000, under pressure from the Clinton administration, Smith & Wesson’s chief executive, Ed Schultz, made a fateful decision — and raised the ire of the powerful National Rifle Association and its supporters.

Watch what happened next:


Sarah Childress

Sarah Childress, Former Series Senior Editor, FRONTLINE

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

Ex-MPD Officer Thomas Lane Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter Charge for Role in George Floyd’s Murder
He was one of three officers convicted in federal court and expected to face trial next month on state charges.
May 18, 2022
9 Documentaries That Provide Context on the Buffalo Shooting
As America grapples with the deadly massacre, FRONTLINE's past reporting sheds light on the current moment and the circumstances that led to it, from guns to America's history of racist killings.
May 17, 2022
War Crimes Watch: Targeting Ukraine Schools, Russia Bombs the Future
The destruction of schools is about more than toppling buildings and maiming bodies, experts told our reporting partner The Associated Press. It hinders a nation’s ability to rebound after the fighting stops, injuring entire generations.
May 17, 2022
Minneapolis Agrees to Pay $200,000 to Settle Discrimination Complaints by Two Former Police Officers
Colleen Ryan alleged she was denied promotion because she's an openly gay woman, while former Deputy Chief Art Knight alleged his demotion was retaliatory.
May 12, 2022