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SAAMI fights proposed D.C. law; and, how about an electric gun?

SAAMI Fights Proposed D.C. Law; And, How About An Electric Gun?

A recent press release that I received from SAAMI was titled: "Leading Gun Manufacturers Urge Rejection of D.C. Gun Bill."


"The nations leading manufacturers of sporting arms and ammunition have urged legislators to reject the District of Columbia's controversial 'Handgun Manufacturing Strict Liability Act", which would render handgun manufacturers liable for all deaths or injuries in the District arising from the operation of handguns, without regard to fault.

"In a 23-page position paper submitted to the District Council's Judiciary Committee, the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI) called the Bill `...Logically unsound, patently unconstitutional, and incompatible with any rational approach to tort liability.' Members of SAAMI have manufactured firearms and ammunition in this country for about 200 years. They include Browning Arms Company; Federal Cartridge Company; Hercules, Inc.; Hornady Manufacturing Co.; The Marlin Firearms Company: O.F. Mossberg & Sons; Winchester Division/Olin Corporation; Sporting Equipment Division/Omark Industries; Remington Arms Co., Inc.; Smith and Wesson Corporation; Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.; Thompson/Center Arms; and Weatherby, Inc.

"A trade association which publishes industry standards and promotes safe, responsible arms use, SAAMI argues that the Bill violates the Fifth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments of the United States Constitution, as well as the Commerce Clause. By imposing liability without regard to fault, SAAMI claims, the Bill will drive its members, none of whom are located in the District, out of business. Although the Bill exempts handguns originally sold to law enforcement agencies or officers, SAAMI predicts that extinction of the American Firearms Industry will inevitably deprive all lawful users of firearms, including the police and military.

"The stated objection of the Bill is to curb the District's alarming homicide rate. SAAMI commends the objective, but argues that imposing liability, without regard to fault, on a manufacturer which has engaged in a governmentally sanctioned and licensed activity denies due process and will lead to countless anomalous and inequitable results. For example, SAAMI notes, if a criminal escapes from an institution outside the District due to negligence, breaks into a house and steals a gun and later murders a drug dealer in the District, the Bill makes the manufacturer pay, even though the gun was lawfully manufactured and sold to a qualified purchaser, even though the victim was killed during a criminal act after the gun had been brought in the District illegally, and even though the criminal act would not have been committed but for someone else's negligence.

"Members of SAAMI advocate fighting violent crime in the District with tougher penalties for drug traffickers and those who possess and use firearms unlawfully. Along with the handgun bill, the Council is considering emergency legislation to stiffen sentences for drug and firearm related crimes.


I certainly hope that SAAMI's arguments have some influence on the D.C. Council! What the Council is proposing makes no sense at all and is manifestly unjust. You might just as well make auto makers liable for the injuries caused by the vehicles they have made, no matter who was responsible for the injury and no matter how the vehicle came into the possession of the individual causing the accident.

Good Heavens! You don't suppose that someone on the Council might read this and take me seriously, do you? But if they can take that ridiculous "Handgun Manufacturing Strict Liability Act" seriously, I wouldn't be surprised at anything they do!

Electric Guns?

The last place I expected to see an article on guns was in one of my computer magazines. I take a number of them, and they all are so wrapped up in computers and all of the esoteric stuff that goes with that field that it's hard to imagine them talking about anything in the real world.

Anyhow, there it was, a story about the new electric gun.

More specifically, it was a story about the new pistol that the Colt Firearms Division is developing. The writer of the article did manage to work in a bit of computer jargon so that any computer expert reading the article would be able to understand what was going on. The details were a bit scarce in the article. It wasn't until a few weeks later that I saw an article in Popular Science that talked about an electronic pistol and gave a cut-away sketch of the gun along with a more extensive article with more detail on the gun.

Even with all of this information that was presented, I still don't quite understand exactly how the gun works. The details of the interior mechanism are not very specific, but apparently pulling the trigger moves the trigger bar which has a magnet attached to it past a magnetically sensitive switch. That fires up a control circuit located in the mechanism which trips a solenoid which releases the firing pin, and that, in turn, fires the cartridge. According to the story, after the gun is fired and the empty shell is extracted and ejected, a sensor in the barrel opening tells the control circuit that another round is in place, and that operates a "chamber-loaded" LED behind the rear sight. There is another LED (one of those little ubiquitous red or green lights that indicate that something is going on) located just above the grip to indicate low voltage and flashes in case there is a failure in the electronic circuitry which prevents the solenoid from being actuated.

When I first read the article, I visualized one of those "rail guns" which I had seen illustrated in the Scientific American and other scientific magazines in which the projectile is moved by magnetic forces down a pair of rails. There is no enclosed barrel as such, no chamber, no breech mechanism so that the gun is basically very simple.

And although the gun mechanism is basically very simple, these electric "rail guns" do require very large power supplies. What you gain in the way of bulk in the gun mechanism may be overshadowed by the size and weight of the necessary power supply. In any event, there is considerable amount going on in this field and has been for quite awhile. Modern smokeless powder is a pretty convenient source of energy. It is highly concentrated, quite reliable and, generally speaking, quite safe. There are a lot of good properties of smokeless powder that the electric gun must overcome before it becomes a practical and popular method of shooting.

Still another kind of electric gun is one that uses electric primers. During World War II, there was a great deal of interest and emphasis in developing electric primers; that is primers that would be activated by electric current passing through them. The electric primer was largely used in aircraft operation because it had a couple of great virtues. One was that when you turned off the power, shooting stopped immediately. When you are dealing with something like the multi-barrel gun that shoots 6,000 shots a minute (that's 100 shots a second!), it doesn't take very long for a turret-mounted movable gun to shoot part of your own airplane unless the gun stops firing immediately when you get into a dangerous area. Electric primers are particularly good for this kind of thing because there is no hesitancy. When you turn the power off, the shooting stops immediately whereas with mechanically operated firing, there might be a number of shots fired after you really wanted to quit. With a turret-mounted gun on a big airplane, there is a chance of your shooting your own airplane if the gun doesn't stop shooting exactly when you want it to.

This is basically important in the multi-barrel revolving gun where the gun is basically operated by an electric motor. When you let up on the trigger, the gun barrels keep revolving for a noticeable period of time, and with conventional percussion firing, you could easily shoot off part of your own airplane which has certain obvious disadvantages. So the electric primer was widely adopted for this kind of use so that when you came to a dangerous area, the electric mechanism would turn off the primer power source but the motor could keep revolving and could keep turning the barrels. So then you would empty out a few loaded rounds, but that was better than shooting yourself in the tail.

And then there is another kind of an electric gun such as the one that we're talking about here where the electric firing mechanism operates the gun although not necessarily with an electric primer. What I gather from looking at the drawings of the Colt gun, it's percussion fired and therefore could use standard percussion-primed ammunition; but the firing pin is operated by a solenoid which is electronically controlled. It reminds me very much of Frank Green's pistol.

Frank Green was a fighter pilot who won a silver medal in the Olympic Games in Tokyo in the free pistol event, using a pistol of his own design which used electronic firing.

To make a long story short, he went ahead on the electric gun project, making four other guns much like the one with which he had won with except these new guns contained whatever improvements he felt were desirable as the result of his experience. No, he didn't need four guns, but he made four guns and offered them to the four people he thought were most likely to make a place on the next U.S. Olympic pistol team. (That would have been the '68 games in Mexico City, Mexico.)

Along came the try-outs, and what happened, of course, was that Frank did not make the Olympic team this time. It seems he was beaten out by two people who shot two of his very own electric pistols.

Anyway, at one time I knew the internals of Green's pistol well, but it's been a long time since then, and I've forgotten it. As I recall, like the Colt gun, it used an electric solenoid to release a spring-loaded firing pin to fire the cartridge. In the 20 years since the '68 games, there have been a lot of developments in electronics and I'm sure that the Colt gun has some pretty fancy chips in there to give them all the control they want and all the safety that they need.

More Glock Trouble?

Sometimes it seems that you can't win for losing! The Glock pistol, as you may recall, was the subject of that plastic gun hysteria in Congress, a short time ago, in which some of the idiots in Congress were trying to legislate against "plastic guns". Their concern was that these guns could get through the ordinary airport security procedures and that the terrorists would seize upon this as a way of getting themselves aboard flights while armed. It was largely nonsense, of course, the problem being that the airport security inspection machines were not set high enough to recognize what they were suppose to be seeing.

After all of that bad publicity had quieted down a bit, some of the police departments began to take a closer look at the Glock, and lo and behold, they found that it was a pretty darn good pistol; and it was eventually adopted by a number of police departments, including the District of Columbia's.

However, a recent headline in a Washington D.C. paper raised some questions. It said; "New D.C. Police Pistols Gets Poor Safety Marks". The story started out, "The safety of the new semi-automatic pistol purchased recently by the D.C. police is being questioned by the FBI and some other law enforcement agencies which have ruled out its use because of fears of accidental shootings." The report went on to say, "The Glock 17 which D.C. police officers began carrying last month (March '89) is one of two 9mm pistols that received the lowest safety rating in an internal FBI report that characterized the gun as having a high potential for unintentional shots, according to a copy of the report...In addition, at least three law enforcement agencies in Florida barred its use after two suspects were fatally wounded in what was described as accidental police shootings involving the Glock.

"In the District, a police officer assigned to the armorer's office -- the department charged with servicing these weapons -- accidentally shot himself in the hand. In the Drug Enforcement Administration, an agent had a similar accident last month at the FBI's training grounds at Quantico according to sources."

I've seen the Glock a couple of times at shows but really haven't had the occasion to thoroughly take it apart and to examine it; however, I'm going to an all-day session where the Glock will be the main topic sometime next week (April 1989) at a meeting of the Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners.

As I recall it, the Glock design is specifically planned so that the trigger pull is the same for every shot that you fire from the gun. In most revolvers, generally used by the police, starting with the hammer down requires a trigger pull of somewhere on the order of 10 to 12 pounds; and this is because with the double-action type revolver, the trigger pull is required to unlock the cylinder, rotate the cylinder, cock the hammer, lock the cylinder and release the hammer. When fired in the single action mode -- that is with the hammer pulled back manually before pulling the trigger -- the trigger pull goes down to some reasonable figure like 3, 4, or 5 pounds (somewhere in that ball park). The Glock people purposely designed this gun so that the trigger pull would be the same on all shots.

Consequently, the gun has collected itself a bad name because of the carelessness and improper training of the people who are just now getting to use the gun. One of the complaints is that it requires far less pressure on the trigger on the first shot, which is true. It was designed that way. But, as with any gun, if you apply pressure to the trigger, it's probably going to fire. You don't shoot yourself in the hand because of light trigger pull; you shoot yourself in the hand because of grossly careless gun handling.

Like the double-action revolver, the Glock doesn't have any separate external manual safety. Many departments like it exactly for that feature. As I recall, it does have a little lever within the trigger itself which must be pressed in order for the trigger to be released to come back. This sort of thing is not common in the revolvers.

The story goes on talking about complaints by the Beretta Corporation protesting the $1,000,000 contract by the D.C. police department to buy the Glock pistols. One of the attorneys for Beretta said in a contract hearing that the dates on a series of city memos is chronologically impossible. He alleges that the evidence that the District said that it had used in the choosing of the Glock was gathered after the December 6 (1988) announcement of its selection. "District officials denied the allegation and said the city made the surprise announcement in an emergency bid to gain parity with increasingly violent drug dealers, many of which carry semi-automatic weapons".

I think that in an earlier story on the Glock I commented that the D.C. police in buying the Glock was going to take awhile getting up to speed because they would have to go back and retrain all of the policemen out of the habits that they have developed in shooting the revolver. So it will take sometime to work out some of the bugs in the training side, I guess.

Among those that use the Glock are the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Miami Police Department and the 100 member police force in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
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Title Annotation:Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute
Author:Crossman, Jim
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Jun 1, 1989
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