Connecticut’s firearms manufacturers dramatically stepped up their campaign against proposals to ban guns Monday with a 25-minute video featuring three company executives and a dozen of their employees talking about their roots in the state, and the devastation a ban would bring.
The video, issued by the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation, was in the works well before Gov. Dannel P. Malloy rolled out a sweeping agenda on Thursday.
Malloy’s plan includes an outright ban on the popular AR-15 semiautomatic, military-style rifles that have been at the center of the debate since an assailant used one to kill 20 children and six women in Newtown on Dec. 14. The shooter also killed his mother and himself.
Since Thursday, other states have stepped up their efforts to recruit these companies to move from Connecticut — an effort that’s constantly aimed at manufacturers of all sorts, with or without a controversy. Executives and employees in the video deal with the prospect of leaving Connecticut head-on.
“I don’t want to have to think about leaving here. This is our home. This is where our families are,” said Mark Malkowski, who founded AR-15 maker Stag Arms in 2003 in New Britain and now has 200 employees and dozens of local firms as suppliers.
“The rush to legislate, in my mind, seems very very sad to me,” said Jonathan Scalise, owner of Ammunition Storage Components of New Britain, which makes bullet magazines for Stag Arms and other gun companies — many of them the 30-round models that would be banned in Connecticut under Malloy’s proposal.
Scalise said the company, founded less than three years ago, will soon have 100 employees. He’s a third-generation New Britain manufacturer.
“We restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens in order to curb criminals and people who are insane … who are unaffected by those laws,” Scalise said in the video.
Trading public safety for jobs would be a non-starter, of course. The point the manufacturers are making is that a ban would not improve safety, and it would threaten jobs. In my column on Thursday, I said firearms bans should be national, not state-by-state.
The third executive in the video, Joe Bartozzi of O.F. Mossberg & Sons in North Haven, talks about the long family tradition of rifle-making at Mossberg, founded by a Swedish immigrant in 1919.
“So we have long roots in this state. In fact, Mossberg is the oldest family owned and operated firearms manufacturer in America,” said Bartozzi, the vice president and general counsel. “There are not a lot of layers of red tape between an assembler on the floor and the CEO, who is fourth-generation Mossberg family.”
The three executives all talk about the high skills of the workers they employ. They are among nine gun company managers and owners from Connecticut and Massachusetts who have testified twice at the state Capitol since Jan. 27.
The local industry has risen up before in Hartford, most recently over the last several years to oppose a proposed ban on magazine sizes and the mandated use of so-called “smart-gun” technology, which they said was not yet ready to be commercialized.
Some opponents, led by Malloy, say they value the firearms industry for its defense jobs and for the manufacture of non-military-style guns, but that weapons like the AR-15 — which they call assault rifles — have no place in the hands of civilians.
As hearings continue at the Capitol, it’s likely we’ll see more of the executives now becoming a familiar sight and also of employees in Monday’s video.
“I’m a single mother with two kids so I definitely need to have some financial stability,” said Sara Davis, an employee at Ammunition Storage Components.
In all, NSSF says Connecticut has 2,900 direct firearms industry jobs, and indirectly more than 8,000 jobs supported by the industry, which is responsible for $1.8 billion in economic activity here.
As for the other states, including Mississippi, which appealed to several Connecticut companies on Friday, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal issued this statement: “This preposterous pitch to companies with long, successful histories in our state shows the need for national standards and statutes to reduce gun violence. Competition among states for less protective laws is a race to the bottom that should be avoided.”
Another worker from Ammunition Storage Components said he would tell lawmakers, “Don’t take our jobs away. … They should put theirself in our situation and see what would they do. They should try to do everything possible to keep everybody employed.”