Sunday, June 30, 2013

Gun makers leaving firearms-unfriendly states

Will the last firearms manufacturer leaving New England please turn out the lights and bolt the door behind you?

New Britain, Connecticut-based Stag Arms is poised to abandon its home there with the ultimate destination likely being Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Though only a 10-year-old firearms manufacturer, Stag Arms is making good on a promise it announced in April. That being, should Connecticut go forward with passing a strict gun-control law that would prohibit its citizens from buying buying the products the company makes then it will move to a place more gun-friendly.

When Connecticut did outlaw the bulk of Stag Arms products the company set its sights on other out-of-state targets.
Such a bull's-eye likely will be Myrtle Beach, though Texas has also wined and dined Stag Arms; each in the hopes its CEO Mark Malkowski will pack his company's bags and move to one of the respective states.

Malkowski most recently met with Myrtle Beach officials and area legislative leaders.

Their sales pitch to Stag Arms included the fact that firearms giant FN is located in South Carolina along with having a skilled workforce already familiar with firearms manufacturing.

Such a workforce is necessary given that Stag Arms manufactures a variety of AR-platform rifles, which features 80-percent of the hardware being made in-house and the remainder being made elsewhere but within the United States.

On its Facebook page dated June 4, Stag Arms noted that it hosted South Carolina Rep. Alan Clemmons who was given a grand tour of the plant along with a “..very long discussion about jobs, firearms freedoms, manufacturing, and the future of the economies in both states.”

If Stag Arms does leave Connecticut – as all but certain it will – that will still leave several other firearms makers left in the state. Among them are some of the most well-known and largest firearms makers not just in the U.S., but the world.

The list of current Connecticut-based firearms companies include Southport-Conn.-based Ruger, North Haven, Conn.-based O.F. Mossberg and Sons, North Haven, Conn.-based Marlin, and West Hartford, Conn.-based Colt's Manufacturing Co.

Each of these companies, however, have also been invited to leave gun-unfriendly Connecticut for a state with a more favorable environment toward firearms ownership, including the kinds of guns recently outlawed by the state for civilians to buy.

That sort of legislative action has prompted a call by gun owners that if firearms manufacturers want to stay in gun-unfriendly states then they'll pay a price via a buyers' boycott.

And such a boycott could hurt Connecticut's economy.

It is estimated that firearms making in Connecticut generates $1.7 billion annually to the state's economy and employs 3,000 workers.

Already gone from Connecticut is PTR Industries, which was based in Bristol, Conn., but is moving to Myrtle Beach; the same location now trying to snag Stag Arms.
PTR is expected to employ about 140 workers, including any relocated employees.

“The rights of the citizens of CT have been trampled upon. The safety of its children is at best questionably improved from the day of the (Newton) tragedy that triggered the events that led us here.
“Finally, due to an improperly drafted bill, manufacturing of modern sporting rifles in the state of CT has been effectively outlawed.

“With a heavy heart but a clear mind, we have been forced to decide that our business can no longer survive in Connecticut – the former Constitution state,” said PTR's vice president of sales John McNamara in a recent company electronic media release.

But Connecticut is not alone in being abandoned as other states ratchet their own gun laws.

Fort Collins, Colorado recently lost gun accessory maker HiViz. The maker of fiber optic gun sights is moving across the boarder to Laramie, Wyoming.

This, in spite of the fact that HiViz does not make any product even remotely being singled out for banning.

Still, the firm said it is leaving Colorado for the much-more gun-friendly state of Wyoming because of the former's recent enactment of restrictive gun laws.

Also set to leave – and making no bones about it either - is Magpul, a manufacturer of high-capacity magazines, which while legal to purchase, own and use in most other states, are no longer legal to buy in Colorado.

Magpul is now making its products elsewhere, though exactly where is unknown with most presumptions centering on somewhere in Texas.

Colorado is even in the crosshairs of some non-resident hunters who have said they will not visit the state this fall because of its recent enactment of several stringent gun-control laws.

Whether all of this is just a trickle of discontent or a watershed moment when the firearms industry weighs more heavily Second Amendment concerns over the hard economic realities associated with moving is something that gun owners and state governments will be following closely.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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