4 months, 1 week ago
News from what was once the land of liberty, the home of the venerable John Adams, who along with Abigail fomented a revolution against the tyrant.
State lawmakers looking to balance safety with the rights of gun owners and the state’s burgeoning gun industry spent Friday listening to folks from both sides of the issue.
Michael J. Ball is a Marine Corps veteran and head of the student shooting club at the University of Massachusetts. He said everyone wants safety, and gun owners are willing to work to make sure the mentally ill and criminal can’t get their hands on firearms.
“I think there is common ground,” Ball said.
The hearing, held at the American International College’s Griswold Theatre, is the latest in a series of public forums on a number of proposed changes to the state’s gun laws. Proposals include requiring gun owners to buy insurance, limiting magazines to seven rounds, down from 10, and limiting gun buyers to just one gun purchase in 30 days.
Massachusetts legislators filed 60 pieces of legislation in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. This legislative committee’s job is to whittle that down to a package of workable laws, probably by fall.
About 150 Smith & Wesson employees had lined up outside the theater for seats nearly an hour before the forum began. The venue seats 500.
William Innocent, of South Hadley, whose grandson Sheldon Innocent was gunned down in a Springfield barbershop in 2011, called for the state to search for a way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, and away from the mentally ill or suicidal. The shooter, an escaped inmate, was trying to kill someone else out of revenge.
“I just hope we all, gun owners and non-gun owners, can work together to stop gun violence,” Innocent told the packed auditorium.
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On Thursday Smith & Wesson president and CEO James Debney told The Republican the company wanted to ensure its voice — and the voices of its 1,500 employees — were heard at the forum.
In remarks to the panel Friday morning, Debney described Smith & Wesson as “… an industry leader that is committed to safety,” selling only through federally licensed dealers and including a lock with each firearm. Citing the company’s large number of employees, Debney said the company hopes to remain in the city for a long time.
Founded in Springfield in 1852, Smith & Wesson has more than 1,600 employees, including 1,500 production workers at its sprawling firearms plant on Roosevelt Avenue. The company has a $77.5 million annual payroll.
In terms of any new gun regulations, Debney asked the state not to infringe on residents’ Second Amendment rights. Instead, the executive suggested that Massachusetts report mental health data to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Massachusetts requires the collection of mental health records for an in-state database, but does not require those records to be submitted to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Other Smith & Wesson employees also spoke against laws that could erode gun owners’ rights. David Findlay, of Athol, an engineer for the company, said, “The real issue is how we deal with mental health in this country.”
A revolver assembly worker for the company told the panel that he makes objects that either function or fail. “Violence is from the heart,” he said, making the argument that only people can be blamed for gun violence.
Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno called for limits on magazine capacity, but prefaced the request with a nod to Smith & Wesson. “They are a responsible employer,” Sarno said of the company. “They are a good corporate citizen.”
“No one is looking to take away anybody’s Second Amendment rights,” Sarno said.
And another state lawmaker said the same thing: “One thing we want to stress, it’s no one’s intent to step on anyone’s 2nd Amendment Rights,” said State Representative Harold Naughton.
Debney also said in his prepared remarks that:
“Massachusetts is our home,” said Debney at the company’s sprawling Roosevelt Avenue factory. “All you have to do is look behind you at the hundreds of (computer numerically controlled ) milling machines. They are not going anywhere.”
Earlier this year, Texas Gov. Rick Perry specifically lobbied gunmakers in Connecticut and New York state to relocate to Texas. Debney said he gets numerous solicitations form states all over the union.
“We are not listening,” he said. “It all happens here.”
But Debney acknowledged that any firearm restrictions would further cement Massachusetts’ reputation as an “anti-gun” state. There could be a consumer backlash against Smith & Wesson similar to the hate which flowed from gun owners after Smith & Wesson cooperated with Clinton-era gun restrictions.
“It almost took down the company,” he said. “We won’t make that mistake again. At the end of the day, shooting is a passionate sport.”
First of all, a quick note to Sarno and Naughton. Stepping on second amendment rights is exactly what you intend to do, and you’re both liars. As for Debney, his issues are more complicated.
He has his feet in two worlds. He makes it clear that S&W is staying put. They are in Massachusetts to stay, says he. On the other hand, S&W won’t make the same mistake again. Of course, the mistake to which he is referring is aligning themselves with Bill Clinton’s gun control, a mistake which almost killed the company.
But times have changed. Firearms companies can no longer simply make it clear that they oppose additional gun control. Magpul knew better and is moving from Colorado, and so did Beretta who is moving from Maryland (and they had better not lollygag and delay as they seem to be doing – we’re watching).
Gun owners won’t send money to companies who will give tax revenues to totalitarian states. This is the reason Remington will eventually have to move from New York or perish in spite of the silly article they persuaded National Review to do praising the company.
Here’s a note to Debney. You won’t win. Massachusetts is too far gone, and the statists have too much sway to turn back the tide of gun control. Gun owners won’t approve, and Smith & Wesson will suffer from the decrease in revenue. Gun owners never forgive and never forget. Our actions are based on principle and well grounded in the soil of moral economics.
Make your decision now. You can relocate to a free state where the workers are non-union, the people loyal and the land vibrant, or you can stay put and die on the vine. As for me, I have two Smith & Wesson weapons, both of which I love. I had intended to buy more, but if Smith & Wesson stays in Massachusetts, I won’t spend another penny of my hard earned money on revenue for Massachusetts to enact more gun control.
Time is of the essence. South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas and a host of other free states beckon you. You will soon reach the point of no return, where you have spent too much energy and time on trying to ameliorate an unmanageable situation in Massachusetts. Your time is better spent on calling the board of directors together and forming a strategy for survival. Your future depends on it, and you must move quickly.