Trouble is brewing in New England for gun manufacturers. The Massachusetts attorney general has launched an innovative investigation of major firearm makers based on her state’s expansive consumer-protection law.
The probe targets at least two companies—Glock Inc. and Remington Outdoor Co.—and possibly others. The investigation came to light because of lawsuits the gun companies recently filed seeking to block or narrow the Massachusetts safety investigation, calling it overly intrusive. The defensive litigation stated that Attorney General Maura Healey is demanding that Glock and Remington surrender a wide range of internal documents, including safety-related complaints from customers.
Glock is Austria-based and controlled by its founder, 87-year-old Gaston Glock. Beginning in the mid-1980s, the company’s pistols revolutionized the handgun market with their large ammunition capacity and lightweight, mostly plastic frame. Remington, 200 years old and based in Madison, N.C., is part of Freedom Group, which, in turn, is owned by a New York private equity firm by the name of Cerberus Capital Management.
Since the Glock was introduced in America 30 years ago, critics have said its design makes it more likely than other handguns to fire accidentally. For example, the Austrian gun fires with relatively little pressure from the shooter’s index finger, and it has an unconventional safety mechanism built into its trigger, which some detractors say is ineffective. The company has responded that with proper training and careful technique, users will avoid accidental discharges.
Remington has had safety issues of its own. The company recently recalled two lines of rifles manufactured from 2006 through early 2014 because of accidental discharges. The recall notice stated to owners that “any unintended discharge has the potential for causing injury or death. Immediately stop using your rifle until Remington can inspect it to determine if the XMP trigger has excess bonding agent used in the assembly process, which could cause an unintentional discharge.”
The Boston Globe, which broke this story on Sept. 1, reported that, in her court filing responding to Glock’s suit, Healey argued that the manufacturer’s pistols are “prone to accidental discharge” and that the company may have been warned about the problem by customers but still failed to act. “Responding to Glock’s lawsuit,” the Globe added, Healey referred to “news stories about a sheriff's deputy accidentally firing a Glock pistol in San Francisco’s Hall of Justice, a Los Angeles police officer who was paralyzed from the waist down after his 3-year-old son accidentally fired his Glock pistol, and a Massachusetts man who was dancing at a July 4th party when his Glock handgun fired while it was in his pocket.”
Guns, it's worth noting, are one of the only products not regulated by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission.