Colt Manufacturing emptied its West Hartford plant for a brief show of force at the state Capitol Thursday morning. Ten busloads of the plant’s employees flooded the Legislative Office Building, appealing to lawmakers to save their jobs.
Lawmakers were set Thursday to hear testimony on gun control legislation during what was expected to be an all-day public hearing. It was the second gun-related public hearing held by the legislature since Dec. 14, when a gunman entered a Newtown elementary school and murdered 20 students and six educators.
Second Amendment advocates applauded as between 400 and 600 Colt workers entered the building around 10 a.m. They gathered in the atrium, chanting things like “Save our jobs” and “Where’s our governor?”
Colt President and CEO Dennis Veilleux said employees of the company and some suppliers made the trip to the Capitol.
“[The plant] is empty. We shut it down,” he said.
Veilleux said he hadn’t put a number to what it might cost the company in production costs to suspend work for the morning. He said it was more important to his business to have his employees’ voices heard.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and various lawmakers have proposed sweeping changes to the state’s gun regulations, including prohibiting more weapons under an assault weapons ban and restricting high capacity ammunition magazines.
If some of the proposals pass, Veilleux said it “definitely will mean jobs for Colt. “I can’t quantify it right now because it’s going to be interesting to see as this story develops, what actually gets passed.”
Deneen Silvers, who works in Colt’s human resources department, said the trip to the Capitol was voluntary for the plant’s employees. She said people there are nervous about their jobs.
“The concern is absolutely there. If what [Malloy] is proposing passes, it could hurt Colt,” she said, adding that they are also concerned about legislation being proposed at the federal level.
Pete Cyr, who works in shipping, said he thought some of the proposals on the table have positive aspects. But he said they could impact jobs both at Colt and its suppliers.
“They’re going to affect our jobs and jobs throughout the state. It’s a big concern. There are a lot of families involved with this type of manufacturing,” he said.
Colt employees lined the halls of the Legislative Office Building for around an hour as lawmakers on the Public Safety Committee began their public hearing on gun control. At around 11 a.m., they boarded their charter buses and headed back to work.
At an unrelated press conference Wednesday, Malloy said he wasn’t asking gun manufacturers to leave the state, but he maintained his support for stricter gun regulations.
“As long as they are manufacturing a product that can be legally consumed or purchased in the nation they’re welcome to stay in our state,” he said of gun manufacturers.
However, the governor said he expects that his proposals, including the expansion of the state’s assault weapons ban and the prohibition of high capacity magazines, will pass this session.
“On Dec. 14 an individual went into a school with two large capacity magazines taped to one another so that he could maximize the amount of death and destruction that he could accomplish in a relatively short period of time,” Malloy said. “As you know and I know he was highly successful.”