Connecticut weapon makers say restrictions would cost jobs
NEWTOWN, Feb 27, 2013 (New Haven Register - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Strict new gun-control laws would devastate the state's gun-manufacturing industry, according to a video released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation featuring three Connecticut companies.
The video, "Connecticut Manufacturers and Employees Speak Up," features executives and employees of O.F. Mossberg & Sons of North Haven, Stag Arms of New Britain and Ammunition Storage Components, also in New Britain.
The foundation, which promotes hunting and shooting sports, is based in Newtown, where 26 children and staff were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School Dec. 14 by a gunman with a semiautomatic weapon.
Since then, proposals to limit semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines have been proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and discussed in a task force he appointed, as well as by a special legislative committee.
Joe Bartozzi, senior vice president and general counsel of Mossberg, "the oldest family-owned and -operated firearms manufacturer in America," said in the video that the company has introduced new semiautomatic rifles that "have all been very well received in the marketplace."
While many call the guns "assault weapons," Bartozzi refers to them as "modern sporting rifles." The company also makes shotguns and bolt-action rifles.
"The modern sporting rifle is definitely misunderstood," Bartozzi said. "What people don't necessarily realize is that semiautomatic rifles have been in use commonly in this country since 1905." They look different but the mechanism is the same, he said.
"Like any semiautomatic rifle, it fires with one shot with one pull of the trigger. It's not a machine gun; it's not a military weapon."
Semiautomatics, like the Bushmaster AR-15 Adam Lanza used in Sandy Hook, are "a lightweight firearm that has very good accuracy, the controls are very ergonomically placed; it's light recoiling."
Banning semiautomatics like the AR-15 (a step that has not formally been proposed so far) or restricting them would severely hurt the business, Bartozzi said.
"We've just invested in this facility over $4 million in new equipment," he said. "We've hired 100 new people to operate these machines and assembly these new products that are being sent out to market. So the effect would be dramatic."
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Bartozzi said the proposals would affect about half of the company's 15 to 20 product lines. (The company does not make the Bushmaster.) Out of 270 employees, "30 to 40 of those employees are dealing just with our modern sporting rifles."
On the 24-minute video, Elizabeth Zajac, a Mossberg employee, says, "I would ask the legislators to think very carefully about their final decisions" because they "not only affect Mossberg and Mossberg's employees and our families but the communities that we live in, the vendors that supply us, the people that we rely on to purchase our tools, to resharpen our tools, to take care of our machines. I would really ask them to consider the long-term effect of what they're asking industry to do."
Efrain Lozada of New Britain, who works at Ammunition Storage Components, said "Don't take our jobs away. ... They should put themselves in our situation and see what would they do. They should try to do everything possible to keep everybody employed; that's the top thing here in Connecticut. ... All the jobs are walking out."
Last week, Malloy proposed a series of steps to lessen gun violence, including universal background checks. A semiautomatic weapon would be prohibited if it has a detachable magazine and at least one military feature, such as a folding or telescoping stock, a pistol grip, a bayonet mount or a flash suppressor. Magazines would be limited to holding 10 rounds or fewer.
Andrew Doba, Malloy's spokesman, issued a statement: "The goal of the governor's proposal is to make Connecticut safer. We hope the industry will join us in that effort."
Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said militarized semiautomatics are not simply hunting or target rifles.
"We certainly don't want to see people lose jobs and we certainly respect the fact that there's been a history of gun manufacturing in the state," he said. "The fact is that these are very dangerous weapons that do not belong in the hands of civilians."
Both California and New York have passed bans on militarized semiautomatics and a federal bill has been proposed, Pinciaro said.
"I think that they would have been clearly aware of the fact that this is a business risk to them and they have to take that risk into account," he said.
Call Ed Stannard at 203-789-5743.
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