Christine Stuart file photo
View of the Colt smokestack from the Blue Onion (Christine Stuart file photo)

When the National Shooting Sports Foundation withdrew its support from efforts to turn the Colt complex in Hartford into a national park, “a number of things crossed my mind,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday.

“I think they went out and cut a bunch of sour grapes and ate them,” Malloy concluded.

Malloy, who has called the Colt complex a “temple to the industrial revolution,” commented in March — before the gun control legislation was passed — that he doesn’t believe the expanded assault weapons ban will impact manufacturers in the state, since they are still allowed to manufacture the banned weapons for sale in other states.

But the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents the manufacturers and sporting enthusiasts, believes the state is being hypocritical.

“Our industry is offended by the hypocrisy of our elected officials in Congress and the state government that simultaneously advocate for legislation that pays homage to our industry’s heritage and legacy in Connecticut by establishing a National Park on the site of the legendary, iconic Colt factory, while at the same time pursue gun control legislation,” Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, wrote to U.S. Rep. John Larson in June.

Keane’s letter was copied to Malloy, who has been helping Larson achieve the national park designation. During a tour of the Colt building in Sept. 2011 with former U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Malloy said he believes the site would attract 60,000 to 100,000 tourists a year.

But Keane said he would prefer to keep gun and ammunition manufacturing jobs in the state.

“Our Connecticut members are unwilling to trade valuable manufacturing jobs for ticket-taker jobs at a national park,” he said.

What Malloy and Keane seem to agree upon is the storied history of the Connecticut gun industry and the Colt complex.

“Henry Ford came to Coltsville to understand what he needed to do to improve and lower the cost of manufacturing cars,” Malloy said Wednesday. “Henry Ford did a pretty good job of copying what was done by Samuel Colt.”

He said Ford’s visit is part of the more modern Industrial Revolution in our country and it should be shared with all Americans. A national park would allow that to happen.

In a statement, Larson stressed the historical implications, which he said had nothing to do with new efforts to pass things like universal background checks.

“This is a site of national historic significance. Anyone who understands the significance and importance of Coltsville gets it. It was and will remain the cradle of the Industrial Revolution — the site of precision manufacturing, assembly line production and interchangeable parts. It was significant socially in that for most of its history it was led by a woman who produced major economic and social reforms before women even had the right to vote,” he said.

But Keane is more worried about the present than the past.

“Our industry is more than just a legacy,” Keane said. “The firearms industry is, still today, an important and vital part of Connecticut’s economy.”

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