Category Archives: Firearms

Months After Exiting Connecticut, Rifle-Maker Honors New State

by Categorized: Firearms, Manufacturing Date:
The PTR-91 South Carolina Commemorative Edition Courtesy of PTR Industries

The PTR-91 South Carolina Commemorative Edition
Courtesy of PTR Industries

When PTR Industries announced last year it would flee Connecticut for the firearms-friendly state of South Carolina, it made a public statement of defiance and political will.

The maker of military style, semi-automatic rifles was founded and grounded in Bristol  but on April 4, 2013, when the governor of its home state outlawed its only product in the fallout of the Sandy Hook tragedy, the time to move had come.

Underneath the public blustering lay a series of private decisions by employees, some wrenching and lonely. We don’t move easily in the Land of Steady Habits. By Dec. 10, the start of the month-long company trek to Aynor, S.C., 21 of 47 PTR managers and workers had committed to exit Connecticut.

“Some of them may have decided that this was not enough of a cause to relocate their entire life,” said John McNamara, the PTR vice president of sales and administration.

PTR engravingNow PTR is marking its public statement and the private decisions that supported it with the “South Carolina Commemorative Edition Rifle,” a black-and-brushed-nickel weapon that sports engraved palmetto tree and crescent moon insignias, complete with three 20-round magazines.

“This rifle symbolizes a long journey that we’ve taken in just over a year, selling our homes, moving our families, leaving our friends,” McNamara said. “What this rifle symbolizes is all the turmoil that we’ve been through to get where we are today.”

And the freedom that drove all that upheaval, a notion McNamara raises often.

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Democrats Using Gun Control As A Weapon

by Categorized: Firearms, Politics Date:

It’s clear that Connecticut’s post-Newtown gun control law will play a loud role in the legislative campaigns and we expect Second Amendment advocates to attack supporters. But Democrats are also using the issue as a weapon against anyone who hints at opposition.

That leaves Republicans who voted for it — most prominently Sen. John McKinney, the candidate for Governor who helped negotiate the law — caught in the middle if they make one false move, or even if they don’t.  And it leaves Democrats who voted against the law, including Rep. Linda Orange, facing a battle from the left.

The state’s Democratic Party issued a breathless release Wednesday morning, titled “SHOCKER: John McKinney Says He Would Repeal The Gun Control Bill ‘SB 1160.'”

It looked big. But that’s not what McKinney said.  The Democrats, who attend and record many events of McKinney and other GOP candidates for governor, issued a YouTube Video and a transcript showing McKinney answering a question at a meeting of the Quiet Corner Tea Party Patriots in Putnam.

QUESTION: …if Republicans took over the General Assemblyand if they put forward a repeal of SB 1160if you were elected governor, would you sign that?

MCKINNEY: If the legislature repeals something, I think the governor owes a great deference to what the legislature does, and I would.

McKinney spent two hours with the group of about 30, all of them opposed to the gun control law, he recounted to me Wednesday.  He explained to the group that he continues to support the law, though it contains some measures he would not have added.

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Smith & Wesson, Sturm, Ruger Exit California Market Over Gun Rules

by Categorized: Firearms, Government Date:

Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger are pulling out of the California market for the sale of some new firearms, Reuters and Fox News report, as the nation’s biggest state rolls out rules requiring gun-makers to offer microstamping of serial numbers on ammunition for new and redesigned models.

The whole gun industry, led by the National Shooting Sports Foundation in Newtown, is fighting the California law, and efforts in other states to adopt similar laws. They say the technology is costly but ineffective in solving crime, and is not sufficiently developed for mass production

It should come as no surprise that Smith & Wesson, of Springfield, is leading the charge against microstamping.  The historic gunmaker has been burned before, when it complied with government rules on smart-gun technology.

Late in the Clinton administration, a coalition of federal agencies and cities tried to adopt rules favoring the purchase of firearms that had advanced safety standards, including technology that could make it harder for people to use stolen or illegally purchased guns.  Seven manufacturers, including Colt’s and Sturm, Ruger, filed a lawsuit saying the proposed rules were unconstitutional.

But Smith & Wesson sided with the government — and paid the price in a backlash by customers.

See The Courant’s Daily Buzz question today; Should Bullets Be Microstamped?

Most companies in the industry, including Colt’s, decline to say publicly how they’re progressing in smart-gun technology, as they oppose mandates but could gain an advantage by coming out first with workable systems.

Rifle Registration: Upward Of 30,000 Gun Owners And Counting

by Categorized: Firearms, Government Date:

As the deadline for gun-owners arrived Tuesday, upward of 30,000 Connecticut residents declared that they own at least one assault weapon and registrations were still arriving in the mail.

The big question looking forward, which we’ll never be able to answer, is this: How many owners of military-style rifles didn’t register their weapons, thereby becoming criminals as of Wednesday? And what will state officials do about it?

State officials estimated 25,000 people registered as of Friday, and since then, thousands more came in by mail and in person at State Police headquarters in Middletown. Many owned just one firearm, said Lt. Paul Vance, state police spokesman. But, he said, “There are some who have many assault weapons.”

Separately, as of Friday, 17,000 people had registered magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, with many more coming in — and some declaring dozens of magazines.

A final count of all registrations won’t be available for several days, Vance said.

The numbers have been a mystery even to people watching the process closely. Some estimates circulating in the state Capitol last spring had more than 100,000 assault weapons in Connecticut, perhaps as many as 250,000, under the broader definition established by the law that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed April 4.

Lines at state police headquarters in Middletown were moving smoothly, down to about 20 people by late Tuesday morning, Vance said. Earlier, and on Monday, he said, “It wrapped around the building, it was extremely long.”

Vance said employees were helping people in the lines so that many didn’t have to wait until they reached the front. “We took some people out of the office in special licensing and firearms to accomplish the task,” he said. By afternoon, the lines were gone.

Under the April 4 law, most rifles with semiautomatic action, meaning they reload a round with each pull of the trigger, and with military-style characteristics such as a pistol grip, were classified as “assault weapons” even though the gun industry considers an assault weapon to be a fully automatic firearm, shooting multiple shots with one pull of the trigger — which is illegal for civilians to own except in rare cases.

Firearms defined by the state as assault weapons were not legal for sale in Connecticut as of April 4, and anyone who owned one prior to that date had to register it by Tuesday. As of Wednesday, it is a Class D felony to own an unregistered assault weapon made after 1993, when a state law outlawed the sale of a narrower group of assault weapons. It’s a misdemeanor if the resident has owned the gun since before the 1993 law.

Owners of those firearms that were made illegal for sale in 1993, and again when the state’s definition of assault weapons was broadened in 2000, were required to register them, but that list totals only a few thousand, said Mike Lawlor, undersecretary for criminal justice at the state Office of Policy and Management.

Gun owners on the line who spoke with a Courant reporter on Friday did like having to register, and did not like the idea that the law is creating a new class of felons who were previously law-abiding citizens. Though an exact count of unregistered guns will be impossible to tally, there are records of retail gun sales, which could tell officials who in Connecticut owns a gun — assuming that gun had not been sold privately.

“It would be interesting to compare those names,” Lawlor said. He stopped short of suggesting the state would conduct an active search for owners of unregistered guns.

The felony charge is already in effect for anyone who owns an assault weapon that he or she did not own prior to April 4, as happened in the case of a University of New Haven student who was charged with illegally owning a Bushmaster.

And starting April 1, 2014, all transfers of rifles in Connecticut, including private sales, will be subject to registration. Since 1994, owners have had to register handgun transfers.

The numbers, once tallied in a few days, will tell a story about firearms in Connecticut, though an incomplete one, said Lawlor, who, as a lawmaker, was instrumental in the earlier gun registration and ban laws.

“At the end of the day the goal is to enforce responsible ownership,” Lawlor said. “The goal is to have fewer people getting shot.”

Sturm, Ruger Leads CT Firms On Forbes Best Small Companies List

by Categorized: Corporate finance, Firearms, Management, Media Date:

What do gunmaker Sturm, Ruger & Co. and Annie’s, the organic food firm with the bunny mascot, have in common? Not much, you might think, but both companies with Connecticut ties are in the top 10 of the Forbes list of best performing small public companies.

Sturm, Ruger, based in the Southport section of Fairfield, comes in at No. 5 in the ranking, which is based on sales and profit growth over the last five years.

Annie’s, at No. 10, is based in Berkeley, Cal., but was founded by Canton native Annie Withey, who still grows and sells vegetables in Hampton and consults with the company.

Three other Connecticut companies also made the Forbes list, which ranked 100 publicly traded companies that have sales under $1 billion — solidly midsize by most standards. They are SS&C Technologies of Windsor, No. 28; TransAct Technologies of Hamden, No. 57; and FactSet Research Systems of Norwalk, No. 78.

Ruger has only its headquarters in its home state and recently announced a major manufacturing expansion in North Carolina. Over the last five years Ruger has ridden the gun wave, with its sales ballooning by 24 percent a year to $595 million and a massive 54 percent a year average gain in earnings per share.

At SS&C, the maker of software and systems for the financial services sector, with more than 400 employees in Windsor, founder and CEO Bill Stone moved to Florida late last year said this month he is considering moving company headquarters elsewhere.

Gun Group Brings Public Warning Ad Campaign To Hartford

by Categorized: Firearms, law, Media Date:

Here’s a public service effort that may serve a worthy political aim as well as reducing crime: The National Shooting Sports Foundation has expanded its “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” anti-straw-purchase campaign to Hartford and other Southern New England cities.

The campaign includes 13 billboards in Hartford, seven of them along I-91 or I-84, warning people that making a straw purchase — buying a gun for a person who isn’t allowed to buy one for himself — is a serious federal crime.

Billboard along Farmington Avenue in Hartford.  Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

Billboard along Farmington Avenue in Hartford.
Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

The campaign, with the tagline “Buy a gun for someone who can’t…buy yourself 10 years in jail,” is a joint effort of the Newtown-based NSSF, which represents gun retailers and manufacturers, and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  In addition to Hartford, the latest cities with a spate of billboards are Providence, Worcester, Springfield and Boston.

The campaign comes to Hartford just months after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Sen. Chris Murphy accused the gun industry of selling firearms irresponsibly, following the Newtown tragedy, as the industry tried to beat back a ban on semiautomatic rifles. So, here at least, the Don’t Lie campaign could help burnish the industry’s reputation among the few people who aren’t glued to one side or the other.

The Don’t Lie web site,, includes videos and other materials that say straw purchases are responsible for relatively few crimes, since the average length of time between the initial purchase and the use of a gun in a crime is 11 years, according to ATF.   Despite that, straw purchases are a problem: Citing the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the web site also said “40 percent of criminals obtain their firearms from friends or family and another 40 percent obtain their firearms from illegal sources on the street.”

“This warning can help deter an illegal purchase long before a person steps into a licensed retail store,” Stephen L. Sanetti, the NSSF president and CEO, in a written release.

“Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” started in 2000 with the aim of educating retailers as well as the public.

“You can’t always tell if somebody is an illegal purchaser or not, but after a while you will get a feel for it and if things just don’t look right or don’t sound right or don’t present themselves right, that’s when we notify law enforcement as to our belief that this may be a straw purchase,” said Carl Roy, president of the Maryland Association of Firearms Retailer, in a video. 

It’s a laudable effort and obviously retailers are the front-lines soldiers in this, rightly.

As we’ve seen throughout the gun control debate, there’s no easy way to keep guns out of the wrong hands without impeding someone’s rights. The hope here is that “just doesn’t look right” is not a euphemism for racial profiling — which would not be a justifiable means.

A crackdown on straw purchases is part of a much broader set of reforms that’s needed in licensing and background checks for gun purchases. NSSF opposes the so-called “universal background check” for all private gun purchases because, NSSF says, the underlying federal system known as National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is ineffective; retailers would be subject to delays, added costs and potential legal liability; and definitions of gun transfers are confusing.

As long as gun-rights and gun-control advocates continue to press the conversation, it remains possible to address these objections and bring about real reforms, some of which will bring real inconvenience. The Don’t Lie campaign is a good-faith effort by the industry to be part of that conversation.

State Police To Gunmakers: No More Advice On Designs

by Categorized: Firearms Date:

Back in May, a month after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the state’s gun control law, Stag Arms of New Britain came up with a modified design and took it to the state police firearms unit to see whether it would pass muster.

The unit was helpful, even making a design suggestion that would help assure the gun would not be classified as an illegal assault weapon. Stag prepared to make the rifle, a .22-caliber version of the military-style AR-15.

Then in June, the state legislature tightened the law in order to correct a few problems. Stag returned with an updated model, seeking an opinion.

But this time, the firearms unit had a different answer.

“I was told to get a lawyer, figure it out and if I’m wrong I’m going to have to deal with it,” said Mark Malkowski, the Stag Arms owner and president. “It’s my responsibility to interpret…I was told we were no longer allowed to bring prototypes in.”

That means Stag, and any other manufacturer seeking to design a rifle within the rules, and any retailer who offers that product in Connecticut, must take a risk when it comes to figuring out a regulation — a high risk, since selling assault weapons could be viewed as a crime.

It seems reasonable to ask a law enforcement agency to tell citizens what is and is not legal. We expect that of town building departments, tax authorities and countless other local, state and federal offices.

Part of the problem is time. The firearms unit, with four state police detectives and about a dozen civilian employees, is performing a heroic task these days. This is far from the only law the unit must enforce, but this law alone has kept the place on overdrive since the instant Malloy signed it at lunchtime on April 4.

“The first six weeks was pretty much insanity,” said State Police Det. Ken Damato, who helped Stag initially and responded to the manufacturer’s second request for an interpretation. “People were calling us for interpretations and we hadn’t even read the bill ourselves.”

On top of the initial rush of retail and distribution issues, the unit, located in Middletown, must also oversee the process of setting up permits and registrations for rifles, magazines and ammunition purchases. The unit is sending out directives and continues to answer questions.

“We get anywhere from 20 to 50 inquiries a day from different retailers,” said Damato, who is also a lawyer. “We try to give them an understanding of what their obligations are under the law.”

The line is drawn, though, for manufacturers seeking a yea or nay opinion on new designs — and not just because of time concerns, Damato said.

“We’re not engineers,” Damato said. “We’re not arbiters of weapons construction. Stag or any other manufacturer is clearly capable of reading a law which sets forth in great detail the identifiers of an assault weapon, what is now classified as an assault weapon, as well as us. They don’t really need us to be vetting their products, nor is that really our function.”

Malkowski and Nick Discenza, a Stag sales manager who worked with the firearms unit, see it differently.
“He was very apologetic and said the state police are no longer part of the vetting process,” Discenza said of Damato. But Discenza added, “How can you not tell people what they can and cannot make?”

It’s a good question and in this case the gunmakers — including the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry group that’s troubled by the policy — are right.

Malkowski points out that he’s not coming to the firearms unit with concepts, drawings and ideas, but finished prototypes that actually fire bullets. The company is ready to present a design with a new type of grip that may or may not meet the law, he said, depending on the size of the shooter’s fingers. That’s obviously a tough call.

Malkowski and Discenza wondered whether the unit received an order after the media widely reported that state police offered advice the first time around. That might make sense, since it’s no secret that Malloy and many legislators are in a running tiff with the gunmakers, and some resented Stag’s efforts to design a new AR-15 under the law.

But Damato said, “We’ve received no directive from staff command that we’re not to communicate with manufacturers.”

This is an easy fix. The firearms unit, to repeat, is performing heroically under battle conditions. These are men and women, sworn officers and civilians, who understand the products, speak the language and have the respect of the industry — unlike the elected officials who created the law.

Attorney General George Jepsen should determine who, exactly, is the final arbiter of firearms design, presumably the state police firearms unit. That agency must be given enough resources to do its job immediately, including overtime and hiring if necessary.

And the agency must be empowered to give an up or down answer any time a gunmaker comes in with an actual prototype — not a concept, a gun that fires.

If the state wants to put 3,000 jobs at risk in the name of perceived public safety, it can do that. It can’t ask those 3,000 people to risk their legal health by figuring out a law that’s hard to interpret even for the agency in charge of doing so.

State Police Receive First Registrations For Assault Weapons; Click Here for Forms

by Categorized: Commerce, Firearms Date:

The state police have received their first applications from Connecticut residents seeking to register assault weapons under the controversial gun control law that went into effect April 4 — and some people are even bringing in their guns, which isn’t necessary.

Residents have until Jan. 1 to register assault weapons, as defined under the law.  But the system is up and running and the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection is now processing the requests.

Click here for the pdf of the assault weapons certificate application

“They’re just trickling in so far,” said Capt. Thomas Garbedian.

Applicants must show proof that they owned the firearms as of April 4, must submit a right thumbprint and must have the form notarized. The don’t need to show up in person, and they certainly don’t need to bring their guns, Garbedian said.

The state police “received a couple of calls up here from the local departments saying people are walking in with guns,” he said.

Local police are not processing the applications, which can be dropped off or mailed to the state police headquarters at 1111 Country Club Rd., Middletown.

Click here for the information page of the special licensing and firearms unit on the Connecticut gun control law.

The registrations apply to a broad class of firearms that are defined as assault weapons under the law because they have semiautomatic action and at least one military characteristic, typically a pistil grip. The law applies to, among others, the AR-15 type of rifles that are the same platform as the M-16 and M-4 military rifles.

People in the gun industry don’t consider civilian AR-15’s to be assault weapons because they are not fully automatic, meaning they require a pull of the trigger to fire each round. But that’s what they’re called under the law.

Owners of magazines that carry more than 10 rounds must also declare those items by Jan. 1 — which is trickier, since magazines don’t have serial numbers.

Click here for the magazine declaration form

But before you get the idea of registering for magazines that you don’t yet own, giving you the ability to bring them into the state in the future, be aware: Falsely claiming to own magazines is a Class A misdemeanor.

The law is being challenged in court by three lawsuits, the latest of which was filed Monday by the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents retailers, manufacturers and gun clubs. The NSSF lawsuit, filed in federal district court, charges that the law was adopted improperly as an emergency certification, not requiring a public hearing, and that it violates the state and federal constitutional rights of gun owners and industry firms.

Separately, the department is receiving thousands of requests for pistol permits. Starting next Oct. 1, anyone seeking to buy ammunition will need a certificate, and starting April 14, anyone seeking to buy a rifle will need a license — but the existing pistol permit allows both of those permits, so that’s what many residents are seeking.

The department is ahead of the schedule promised by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who had said the registration forms would be ready by Aug. 1.