States with lax gun laws competing for Connecticut’s gun makers

Washington — A growing number of states, most of them in the South, are trying to lure gun manufacturers in Connecticut and other places with tough gun laws.

The offers appear to be tendered by hopes of economic development and to appeal to gun rights voters.

Republicans in Mississippi, South Carolina, Arizona and Texas have reached out to gun manufacturers in the East, often with competing offers.

The pitch is simple: Gun manufacturers would be happier in states with lax gun laws and stronger support for the Second Amendment.

Mississippi’s Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, wrote a letter to 14 gun manufacturers, including Hartford-based Colt and Sturm, Ruger and Co., based in the Southport section of Fairfield, urging them to relocate to the Magnolia State.

“Far from demonizing fire arms products made here. We have supported those constitutional rights along with lawful activities like recreational shooting and hunting,” Gunn said.

He explained why he is wooing gun makers.

“We need more businesses to establish home base in Mississippi,” Gunn said. “We can provide these companies with an educated workforce, a superior quality of life, an evolving education system for their children and the peace of mind that comes with knowing we support their industry.”

Meg Annison, Gunn’s spokeswoman, said none of the gun makers have responded.

Colt, which has been in business in Connecticut for more than 150 years, has said it might leave the state to avoid new gun laws. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy announced a new, tough package of restrictions this week.

Colt did not return calls requesting comment.

But Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Friday blasted the attempt to steal Connecticut’s manufacturers.

“This preposterous pitch to companies with long, successful histories in our state shows the need for national standards and statutes to reduce gun violence,” Blumenthal said. “Competition among states for less protective laws is a race to the bottom that should be avoided.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, sent letters to 26 gun and ammunition manufacturers earlier this month — including to New Haven-based Mossberg & Sons — inviting them to consider a move to Texas.

“As you consider your options for responding to unwarranted government intrusion into your business, you may choose to consider relocating your manufacturing operations to a state that is more business-friendly. There is no other state that fits the definition of business-friendly like Texas,” Perry wrote.

Mossberg & Sons, which has operated in Connecticut since 1919, did not return calls requesting comment.

Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar has asked Remington Arms to move out of New York and start making guns in Arizona, one of the few states with an official state gun — the Colt Single Action Army Revolver.

Gosar wrote his invitation to Remington’s CEO after New York’s legislature approved a tough, new gun law.

“That this law is ill-conceived and unconstitutional is palpable,” Gosar said. “The leaders in New York State have all but told you that your business, your job creation, and your contributions to New York State are no longer welcome.”

Gosar will have to wrestle with fellow Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina who has also reached out to Remington.

“In South Carolina, we believe in the right to keep and bear arms. We believe in free enterprise. We believe in the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our state welcomes any individual or business who believes the same,” Duncan posted on Facebook.

Duncan has also contacted a Colorado company called Magpul that had threatened to move its manufacturing operations to another state if new gun laws were enacted in the state.

Colorado’s House recently passed a law that restricts magazine size, a move Magpul decried this weekend in a full page ad.

“A magazine ban will do more than hurt public safety in a free Colorado,” the ad said.

The pitch promoting greater personal freedom and the unfettered right to bear arms is a new twist in interstate competition for scarce jobs, replacing traditional offers of tax breaks.

But it has worked before.

Two years ago, Bar-Sto Precision Machine, a maker of pistols, moved to South Dakota from California, which has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws.