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Connecticut gun makers and dealers say they want to leave the state but actually pulling the trigger on a move has been easier said than done.
Nearly two years after threatening to leave Connecticut entirely after lawmakers passed comprehensive gun control laws following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, only one gun manufacturer has made a public show of leaving the state; the others — particularly the largest industry players — remain tied here by history and/or tough financials.
“If it weren’t for the large amount of capital they have in Connecticut, the gun companies would be gone,” said Brian Ruttenbur, a gun industry analyst for Stamford investment research firm CRT Capital. “But I don’t see any time in the near future that any of the big Connecticut gun makers are going to move. It is just too expensive.”
Gun makers like Colt Manufacturing of West Hartford, Sturm Ruger of the Southport section of Fairfield, O.F. Mossberg & Sons of North Haven, and Stag Arms of New Britain — some of which can trace their Connecticut roots to before the Civil War — face the same pros (highly trained workforce, established supply chain and proximity to New York and Boston) and cons (high energy costs and property taxes, a unionized workforce and a tough regulatory environment) as other manufacturers when considering an out-of-state move.
Here the writer has let the manufacturer’s propaganda inform him a little too much. A highly trained work force is available anywhere a company wants to invest a little time and money. Machinists, mechanics, engineers and designers are available all over America. As for supply chain, this can be developed overnight. Besides, Connecticut isn’t necessarily the most efficient hub anyway. Watch, and let me show you what I mean.
Of the companies that had their feathers ruffled during the 2013 gun control debate, PTR Industries was the only gun manufacturer that moved entirely out of Connecticut.
In April 2013, following passage of the law that banned its only product, PTR left Bristol for a small town near Myrtle Beach, S.C. As part of the move, the company took 24 of its Connecticut employees and hired an additional 120 in South Carolina.
PTR — like Colt, Ruger, Mossberg, and Stag — declined to comment for this story.
While PTR outright left Connecticut, other gun makers instead have opted to curb their Connecticut footprint.
Ruger remains headquartered in Southport but does all it’s manufacturing in New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Arizona. Mossberg in July significantly ramped up its manufacturing at its Texas plant, installing a 116,000-square-foot addition, while lowering — but not eliminating — production at its North Haven facility.
There’s also the case of the Freedom Group, the North Carolina manufacturer of gun brands like Remington and Bushmaster. Eight days before the Sandy Hook shooting, the state Department of Economic and Community Development offered Freedom Group a $1 million low-interest loan to move its headquarters and 25 employees to Stamford.
So if it’s a legitimate point that the companies are so heavily invested in supply chain and highly trained workers that they cannot afford to relocate, then why has Ruger and Mossberg eased out of Connecticut, and how did they manage to do that without going bankrupt?
The answer is that they can make the change, they just haven’t chosen to because of emotional capital in their communities and people. I don’t fault their loyalty to their people – that’s a trait that is hard to come by these days for many companies. But in the end, high union wages and customer dissatisfaction with their state might be controlling factors.
“In the wake of these very restrictive gun control laws, they have to deal with the consumer reaction,” said Mike Bazinet, director of public affairs for the firearms industry trade association National Shooting Sport Foundation, which is headquartered in Newtown. “There is no question that some damage was done to the brand equity of these companies because their products have a ‘Made in Connecticut’ stamp on them.”
Or not. But if not, they (Mossberg, Ruger, and other gun makers left in Connecticut [Colt is almost a lost cause at this point]) might just have no company left with which to be loyal to their workers. Competition is good. Freedom is good. It can be painful at times, and relocation of loyal workers (I didn’t mention the need for worker loyalty yet) might be a big life change, but in the end change can be good.
See also Gun Valley Moves South