Gov. Dannel P. Malloy may be a cheerleader for manufacturing in the state, but job creation is not his top concern when it comes to manufacturing semi-automatic weapons for sale in Connecticut.
“We don’t want to sell these weapons in our state, but they are legally manufactured,” Malloy said after an unrelated press conference Friday.
His message to gun manufacturers: you’re welcome to stay, “but I think we’re going to enact an assault weapons ban.”
If Malloy has his way, he would ban semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 model used by the gunman who killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Some gun manufacturers like Colt, who have been in Connecticut since the turn of the century, have argued that limiting the number of military-style features on a semi-automatic rifle doesn’t make a gun that gets into the wrong hands any safer.
“I don’t believe banning cosmetic features makes us a greater society,” Colt President and CEO Dennis Veilleux said last Friday in the conference room of Colt’s manufacturing facility in West Hartford.
Malloy doesn’t believe expanding the definition of an assault weapon in Connecticut will make much of a difference to the gun industry as it currently exists.
“Some of the weapons that they manufacture are already banned under the existing Connecticut law,” he said. “The loopholes in that were wide enough to drive a truck through.”
But the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an organization based in Newtown that represents gun manufacturers, believes it will have an impact. The foundation began airing ads by three Connecticut gun manufacturers this week on cable television. The commercials feature employees of Colt’s Manufacturing Company of West Hartford, O.F. Mossberg & Sons Inc. of North Haven, and Stag Arms of New Britain.
“Legislation before the General Assembly that would institute an outright ban on the sale of the most popular model of semi-automatic rifle today presents the real prospect of decreasing good-paying jobs in our state,” Jake McGuigan, director of government affairs for the NSSF, said Thursday. “Lawmakers need to understand that the underlying issues go deeper than whether a manufacturing exemption would be put in place.”
The firearm industry has a storied history in the state, which is tied directly to the brand identities of these companies.
“We believe Connecticut is where we belong and we want to stay here,” Veilleux said last week.
But he worries that if the state passes a ban on semi-automatic rifles there will be a brand backlash that will cause his board of directors to take offers to move seriously.
“Our heritage is a big part of brand message,” Veilleux said. “Don’t make it so easy to think this thing through.”
Malloy, asked about whether he thought the brand identity of these manufacturers could cause them to flee the state, said he’s “not a brand guy. That’s up to them to decide.”
Meanwhile, meetings between Democratic and Republican legislative leaders were postponed Friday because of the snow, but expanding the definition of an assault rifle may be the most difficult task they face as they seek to hammer out a bipartisan agreement.