Connecticut gun manufacturer sells 90,000 assault-style weapons nationwide, despite ban in state

doc51394231d9a2a936042949By Mary E. O’Leary

Part of the Connecticut gun legislation debate also centers on jobs and the threat by the firearms manufacturers that expanding the assault weapons ban here could impact employment. It is an argument the industry has offered before in 2009 and 2011 when Connecticut made previous attempts to tighten firearm restrictions and those familiar with the history of the 1993 original assault weapons ban here said it was also made at that time.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation on Thursday started running cable ads showing the concerns of employers and workers from three manufacturers. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s staff has been meeting with representatives of the firearms industry in recent weeks as the issue continues to play out in the legislature.

He sent them a letter on Wednesday, a day before the NSSF put out its release on the television ads, telling them there are differences between them, but he hopes they continue to remain in the state and have an “open and honest dialogue.”

He said some of the issues require the expertise of the manufacturers and he welcomed their input in “crafting certain guidelines and strategies.” Malloy said he knows they also desire “to live and work in a healthy, safe and prosperous community.”

The governor said he hoped the firearm companies weigh the quality of life in Connecticut, its educated workforce and the state’s commitment to high precision manufacturing in its future plans.

Michael Lawlor, Malloy’s liaison on criminal policy decisions, said in their discussions they inquired as to how many Colt AR-15s and Colt Sporters, both banned for sale and possession in Connecticut for the past 20 years, Colt sold in the last year. Even with the ban here, Lawlor said the total was 90,000 nationwide.

On Tuesday, the NSSF put out a strong statement in reaction to a proposal by the majority Democrats on adding more weapons to the existing ban, something widely supported by the public, according to the latest Quinnipiac Poll.

At that time the foundation said such a proposal “holds the real prospect of affecting employment in our state because underlying issues go deeper than whether manufacturing exemptions would be issued.”

It expanded on that Thursday when it announced on its website it would start running cable ads.

“The value of our companies’ brands and national consumer acceptance of firearms made in a state that bans them within its own borders are serious business issues,” said Jake McGuigan, director of government relations and state affairs for NSSF, in a statement.

He could not be reached for comment Thursday. He said a ban “on the sale of the most popular model of semiautomatic rifle today presents the real prospect of decreasing good-paying jobs in our state.” The Democratic assault weapons ban would continue to allow the manufacture of weapons in Connecticut and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, has said a ban here does not eliminate the market for the weapons.

The Connecticut population is an estimated 3.5 million, about one percent of the 315 million in the country. Despite the current ban in Connecticut, assault rifles are still available to local police departments and military and naval forces.

Lawlor Thursday said they are consulting with the manufacturers to make sure the proposed changes in gun laws on permitting and background checks provide as smooth a process as possible for law-abiding citizens to continue to buy firearms.

The governor and the Democratic leadership, in their proposals, don’t want assault weapons in the hands of civilians. Gun advocates argue that the emphasis should be on controlling who can buy weapons, rather on banning the weapons themselves.

The firearms industry, which has a long history in the state, has testified before lawmakers that it provides 2,900 in direct jobs with 1,902 more for suppliers and another 3,474 indirect jobs as part of a $1.8 billion economic impact.

The ban being discussed among the leaders in the assembly would cover semiautomatic weapons if they have a detachable magazine and at least one military feature, rather than two, as is now required. Democrats also favor limiting magazines to 10 bullets or fewer.

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