After Smith & Wesson confirmed the problem, it offered Perry $1,400 if he would sign a nondisclosure agreement; Perry also wanted a safety notification sent to gun owners. When the company upped the offer to "nearly $30,000," said Perry, he agreed and quit talking, except to acknowledge that he got an "appreciation fee." James Gannalo, a police ballistics expert, found the same problem when he tested several Smith & Wesson models for TIME. "It's a threat," he said, "because hand tension could cause the gun to fire when [the handler] believed it was safe." Smith & Wesson declined comment.
As Smith & Wesson was negotiating its safer-handguns deal with the Clinton administration, the largest U.S. gunmaker was also secretly negotiating with a former Alexandria, Ohio, police sergeant who had discovered a potentially deadly design flaw in its semiautomatic pistols. Jeff Perry said he contacted the gunmaker after his 9-mm unexpectedly went off during a firearms-training session. The company's safety manuals for the gun say that if the user removes the magazine from the gun, it cannot fire even if a round is left in the chamber. However, Perry found that if slight pressure is put on the trigger during removal, the gun can fire that round.