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Detroit To Drop Gun Suit

Mayor Dennis Archer plans to ask the Detroit City Council to drop Smith & Wesson from the city's lawsuit against gunmakers, given the company's agreeing to install locks on its weapons to make them more childproof.

Detroit and Wayne County officials praised the Clinton administration Friday for persuading Smith & Wesson to install the locks on all new handguns and make its dealers pledge not to sell handguns to felons and minors.

Even so, Wayne County officials say they plan to go forward with its lawsuit against Smith & Wesson and other gunmakers for their alleged roles in the proliferation of illegal handguns in metropolitan Detroit.

"What they've accomplished is really historic," Deputy Wayne County Executive Michael Duggan said of the safety improvements. "It will prevent hundreds of accidental shootings of children."

But Duggan said he could not agree to dismiss Smith & Wesson from the lawsuit, believing far more can be done to make gun dealers comply with the letter and spirit of gun laws.

"Requiring the gun dealers to sign a code of conduct that they won't sell to kids and felons is a positive step, but the enforcement provisions are too weak," Duggan told the Detroit Free Press.

Detroit and Wayne County are among nearly 30 cities and counties nationwide that have sued gun manufacturers and dealers, blaming the firearms industry for the nation's gun violence.

Detroit and Wayne County filed their lawsuits last April, with Wayne County making that move after videotaping gun dealers selling firearms to felons and underage buyers during sting operations.

The lawsuits, each seeking about $400 million, are pending in Wayne County Circuit Court.

To Duggan, the Smith & Wesson agreement would allow gun dealers to continue selling handguns for four or five years while the manufacturer and a special commission that will enforce the provision determine whether the dealer violated the code.

"They accomplished a lot, but I don't think they're tough enough on dealers who sell guns to kids and felons," Duggan said.

He believes Smith & Wesson's concessions will force other gunmakers to equip their guns with external and internal safety locks.

In a telephone conference call Friday with President Clinton and other federal and city officials, Archer said he would encourage the city's police department to buy Smith & Wesson handguns instead of Glock firearms.

"I am prepared, when the document is sent to me, to sign it dismissing Smith & Wesson," the Free Press said Archer told Clinton.

Said Archer spokesman Greg Bowens: "The deal the president has been able to strike with Smith & Wesson is about the best deal you're going to get right out the box."

In Genesee County, Prosecutor Arthur Busch—the prosecutor in last month's classroom slaying of 6-year-old Kayla Rolland in a Mount Morris Township—voiced approval for Friday' developments. Authorities believe a fellow first-grader fatally shot Kayla with a stolen handgun.

"Had the child-safety features been on these guns, it could have prevented the shooting in (Mount Morris)," Busch said. "Gun manufacturers all along have had the ability to do this.

"It's good to know that a very wonderful thing has come out of this little girl's death."