Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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[AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane]

How Gun Recalls Keep Firearm Owners in the Dark

The German-American gunmaker Sig Sauer has issued its second notice in as many months advising customers of a potentially dangerous malfunction in one of its firearms. In a notice released Friday, the company said it was undertaking a mandatory recall of three of its Predator assault-style rifles. Hammers on the weapons had been improperly heat-treated, which Sig said could lead to “a significant safety hazard.”

The news comes shortly after the company said it would offer a “voluntary upgrade” for its P320 pistol, which police departments and firearms retailers found could fire if dropped onto the rear of the gun’s slide.

There are many ways guns may chronically malfunction. Defective hammers, for instance, could cause a gun to fail to consistently fire, or lead to accidental discharges. But in its recall announcement, Sig provided only the barest details about the nature of the problem, or the safety risks it might pose.

More is known about the problems with the P320 handgun. Sig only announced that upgrade after the pistol’s defect was well documented in slow-motion videos made by members of the public. Even then, Sig just said the pistol could go off when dropped. The company didn’t explain how or why.

Compare the info Sig has shared to another high-profile recall, that of car airbags made by the Japanese company Takata. While the only gun-safety standards are voluntary and set by the industry, the airbag recall is being overseen by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The highway agency has issued a graphic describing just what can go wrong with the airbags (along with their own slick video explaining the mechanical basis for the defect):

Countless other recalls catalogued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission are similarly detailed. Incidentally, the CPSC does not have authority over firearms, only most other consumer products.

Here’s a CPSC breakdown of just what went wrong with a brand of yard lights, a defect not yet linked to any injuries.

In every case, from garden lights to dressers to patio chairs, the commission says not only that a product poses a risk to consumers but how the defect is manifested, how many reports of harm have been documented, and where the product was sold. The same can’t be said for dangerous defects in guns.