Washington — Oklahoma is the latest state to woo a Connecticut gun maker, telling it to bring over its manufacturing plant and jobs.
Mark Malkowski, president of New Britain-based Stag Arms, said he’s been contacted by Oklahoma’s Department of Commerce, urging him to move to the Sooner State.
“Connecticut is our home and we have never taken these letters seriously in the past,” Malkowski said. “But if a ban (on assault weapons) would take place, the idea would certainly be on the table.”
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy last week proposed significantly expanding the definition of firearms included under the state’s 20-year-old assault weapons ban.
Stag Arms opened in Connecticut almost 10 years ago and employs nearly 200 people.
Other Connecticut-based gun makers who have also been approached by politicians from a growing list of states have not said if they’d leave Connecticut.
Officials from Texas, South Carolina, Arizona and Mississippi are arguing that gun manufacturers should abandon states with tough gun laws, like New York and Connecticut, for places where there are fewer restrictions on gun ownership.
Besides Stag Arms, Hartford-based Colt, Southport-based Sturm, Ruger and Co. and New Haven-based Mossberg & Sons have received pitches from other states.
While Connecticut’s gun makers have not made public any plans to move, they have made it very clear to Connecticut’s state legislators that they are an economic force in the state.
At a hearing in Hartford in January on proposed state gun regulations, weapons makers stressed the continued importance of the industry to the state, saying the companies generate $1.75 billion in revenue and create thousands of jobs.
Malloy, in Washington for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, said he needed “a day or two” to think of a response to Oklahoma’s invitation to Stag Arms and the pitches to other Connecticut gun manufacturers.
The governor said none of the companies being wooed have spoken to him. He also said he remains committed to his new, tough gun control proposal.
“We’re going to move forward with common-sense gun safety,” he said.
Malloy’s proposal would ban the sale of any semiautomatic rifle with one “military characteristic,” such as a pistol grip, flash suppressor or bayonet lug. A ban would outlaw Stag’s entire AR-15 product line in Connecticut. The AR-15 also is part of the Colt legacy.
Don Hackler, spokesman for Oklahoma’s Department of Commerce, confirmed Monday that the state was reaching out to gun manufacturers, but he declined to identify which ones.
The state has, however, made up a brochure that urges gun makers to “Set Your Sites on Oklahoma!”
The brochure says the state is “primed and ready” for gun manufacturing facilities and says it has one the best gunsmithing programs in the nation at its Murray State College.
In addition, the brochure said, Oklahoma is a “right-to-work” state that allows employers to decide whether a union represents their workers. The brochure also said, “employees can live and work in Oklahoma without crowds, fighting traffic or a high cost of living.”
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican who is also attending the National Governors Association conference, declined to say how many gun manufacturers her state has reached out to.
“But we’re always open to creating jobs,” she said.
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