It’s official. A Connecticut-based gun manufacturer announced its intention Monday to leave the state in response to the sweeping gun control legislation that the state General Assembly passed in April.
PTR, a Bristol-based semi-automatic weapons manufacturer, started looking at a move south when the state made the sale of its guns illegal in Connecticut following the massacre of 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown.
PTR CEO Josh Fiorini joined South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley at a press conference Monday in Aynor, S.C., where the company intends to move.
“They chose South Carolina because we’re stable here,” Haley said. “Our economy is pro-business, it’s very friendly, we will never surprise them, and they know all they have to do is focus on their profit margins and their cash flow and hire more people and expand. We will stay out of their way and let them do their jobs.”
PTR currently employs 42 people, but the company announced the South Carolina plant will employ 140 and some of the company’s Connecticut employees will reportedly follow it to South Carolina.
Fiorini said PTR chose South Carolina because he felt the consistently conservative government would be more “friendly” to the gun industry.
“We were forced into this position by a government that preferred easy political points and pandering to actual improvements in public safety,” Fiorini said Monday. “On that day, we had to choose between our home and business.”
In an interview posted on Gun.com Monday, Fiorini said the decision to move was easy, but the decision of where was more complex.
“There are a whole slew of factors in coming to the decision, obviously, but what it came down to was a friendly local political environment. We had interest from Massachusetts for example, but we don’t want to be put in this position again a year from now,” Fiorini told Gun.com.
The company also considered trained workforce availability, tax environment, cost of living, and energy costs.
“We narrowed it down to six to eight states that fit that bill,” Fiorini he told the magazine. “At that point it became really a question of deciding between various incentive packages offered by the locations.”
But Fiorini said the final decision was given to his employees. He said because PTR manufactures a unique type of rifle, and retaining employees that already knew how to build it was “crucial” for a smooth transition.
“Maintaining as many employees as we can was really crucial to us being able to make the transition. So we took a vote,” Fiorini said. “You can drive back [to Connecticut] in 12 to 13 hours and you catch a flight from Charlotte . . . People liked the idea of being in striking distance of everyone they’re leaving behind.”
This factor was what ultimately eliminated Texas, according to Fiorini, despite Texas Governor Rick Perry’s public attempt to lure gun manufacturers to the Lone Star State during his trip to Connecticut last week.
Connecticut state Sen. Jason Welch, R-Bristol, whose district includes PTR’s current factory, said in a press release Monday that PTR’s decision was “unfortunate but understandable.”
“They were already dealing in a high cost of operation environment,” The press release says. “Misguided gun legislation that banned their product and a failure to get straight answers from the state as to its impact on their operation were obvious tipping points.”
Welch added “high costs, high taxes and over regulation” as problems that the Connecticut government imposes on its businesses, although the University of Connecticut’s quarterly economic analysis said the university’s economists don’t expect the gun restrictions to make a significant impact on the state’s economy.
South Carolina state Rep. Alan Clemmons, whose district encompasses Aynor, said Connecticut’s response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in November was misguided.
“They passed a law in the constitution state that would make the sale of PTR rifles illegal in the state where they are made,” Clemmons said at Monday’s press conference. “Our hearts bled with the parents, the teacher, the grandparents, the community at large that experienced such a great loss. But then a second tragedy occurred.”
Clemmons said the second tragedy was threatening the Second Amendment, something he said South Carolina is vigilant in protecting.
“Why is that so important to us? It’s so that we can protect all of our other freedoms against a tyrannical government,” he said.
Clemmons said Connecticut’s legislation wrongly outlawed guns that “looked scary.”
“They call them ‘assault weapons,’ but they’re really semi-automatic rifles,” Clemmons said of the rifles PTR manufactures. “You could go to the store right now and purchase one [like it]. Semi-automatic means you pull the trigger once and it reloads a bullet and when you’re ready you can pull the trigger and fire again. It’s not a machine gun.”
PTR employees who are making the move to South Carolina can also expect a change in their ability to unionize. Though South Carolina law protects workers’ rights to unionize, Haley has boasted that her state has one of the lowest unionization rates in the country.
“I am always proud to say we don’t have unions in South Carolina because we don’t need unions in South Carolina,” she said at the press conference Monday. “Our companies take care of those that take care of them.”