Malloy willing to risk gun jobs for inevitable gun ban

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has made the creation and retention of manufacturing jobs an administration priority, left no doubt Friday that he is willing to risk the loss of firearms jobs to win a stronger assault-weapon ban that he sees as inevitable.

“We don’t want to sell these weapons in our state, but they are legally manufactured. We welcome them to stay in the state, and that’s up to them,” Malloy said of the manufacturers. “But I think we are going to enact an assault weapons ban.”

Malloy spoke a day after three Connecticut manufacturers of AR-15s, the military-style rifle used to kill 26 children and women at Sandy Hook Elementary School, began airing commercials warning that a ban could cost hundreds of jobs.

He reached out two days ago in letters to the manufacturers, saying he hoped they stay, despite their differences.

“It is my hope that as you plan for the future, you consider Connecticut’s high quality of life, the availability of a skilled and educated workforce, and an administration that has been consistently dedicated to supporting the kind of precision manufacturing that takes place at your company,” he wrote.

Legislative leaders are scheduled to resume negotiations Monday on a gun-control bill that Malloy thinks should include a broader ban on military-style weapons and a restriction on large-capacity ammo magazines.

Gun-control advocates believe a majority of legislators are ready to expand the state’s assault-weapon ban and restrict magazines, even if the leadership’s negotiations fail to yield a bipartisan agreement on a legislative response to the Sandy Hook massacre.

Malloy is not participating in the talks, but he said his chief of staff, Mark Ojakian, is monitoring negotiations.

“When they agree on something, hopefully, that I can support we’ll make sure it is drafted in the appropriate fashion, so you can’t drive a truck through it,” Malloy said.

Connecticut passed an assault weapon law in 1993, banning the retail sale of specific rifles and handguns, as well as rifles with certain military characteristics, such as a pistol grip, collapsible stock, bayonet lug or flash suppressor.

Manufacturers quickly offered for sale Connecticut-compliant versions of the AR-15, including models made here by Colt’s Manufacturing, Stag Arms and O.F. Mossberg & Sons. The industry says producers of the rifles now employ 741 in the state, paying annual wages of $61.9 million and state business taxes of $13.6 million.

Malloy has proposed language would ban all current versions of the rifle.

The industry is trying to convince lawmakers to focus on who can purchase such weapons, not the total retail ban of a popular rifle that is marketed for its military origins and cache.

The AR-15 and other so-called modern sporting rifles are semiautomatics with detachable magazines that function identically to other semiautomatics that would not be banned. The industry says the legislators are focusing on cosmetics, not function.

While the legislature is likely to pass a gun bill in the next two weeks, the governor’s Sandy Hook Advisory Commission also is preparing policy recommendations on guns, school safety and mental health.