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Gun Safety Goe$ Local

Cities and counties are joining economic forces to prod gun makers to change their ways.

A coalition of 28 cities and counties announced on Wednesday it will use its collective buying power to pressure gun makers into producing safer firearms and sticking to a responsible code of 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, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary, at Wednesday's announcement.

Last week, in an agreement announced by President Clinton, Smith and Wesson said it would 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. Much Ado About Nothing

Inside the Smith & Wesson deal.

The company broke gun industry ranks and changed its policy in exchange for a promise that a lawsuit against it would be dropped. Two other gun makers, Glock Inc. and Browning, announced they will not sign voluntary gun-safety agreements following the Smith & Wesson model.

Cuomo urged communities of every size to join the coalition effort. He said preferential buying can force the gun industry to fall in line behind the Smith & Wesson agreement, since sales to law enforcement agencies represent 20 to 30 percent of the U.S. gun market.

Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell said his city buys "about a million dollars [worth] of guns each year."

Campbell added when the purchasing power of other cities is combined, then the gun makers "will comply or they will cease operations."

"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 sad.

Cuomo added the new coalition was an open attempt to keep the pressure on those and other gun makers.

"Consumers want a safer America," he 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 from 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.

"We have the capacity to squeeze manufacturers like a pincers and hurt them in the marketplace," said New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Democrat. "We are bigger than the NRA [National Rifle Association]."

In general, the NRA has been harshly critical of gun control initiatives. NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre discounted the importance of the Smith & Wesson deal, saying there was not much new in it.

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