UConn analysis: Gun laws don’t drive away firearms makers

The efforts of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the legislature to tighten gun restrictions elicited threats from gun and ammunition manufacturers to leave the Nutmeg State for more firearms-friendly states.

But an analysis unveiled Thursday in the University of Connecticut’s quarterly economic journal found no connection nationally between those restrictions and business migration.

“The key determinant of the number of firearms establishments in a state is having a tradition of those businesses in the first place,” economist Steven P. Lanza, executive editor of “The Connecticut Economy,” wrote in the Summer 2013 issue. “Manufacturers come to depend on local suppliers, workforces and other unique area ‘capabilities’ they might lose if they abandon the location.”

Lanza’s analysis, titled “Targeting Gun Violence: Can We Reduce Deaths and Not Lose Jobs?” cross-referenced states’ gun ownership rates, incidences of gun-related deaths and numbers of firearms manufacturers with a national index of gun laws. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, named in honor of former Reagan administration press secretary James Brady — who was partially paralyzed in a 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan — has ranked states’ gun control laws since 2007.

Connecticut already ranked as the fifth-most restrictive in the Brady system before its response to the shootings in Newtown, Lanza wrote.

One common trend found throughout the analysis, states with tough gun laws tend to have lower rates of firearms ownership, Lanza wrote. “The options are, in a sense, two sides of a coin,” he added.

Not surprisingly, then, Connecticut ranks among the lowest states in terms of gun ownership with only about 31 percent of the population.

It also falls relatively low on a per capita basis, in terms of the incidence of gun-related deaths, with about six for every 100,000 people per year.

Business location, general education level of the adult population and of taxes on fabricated metals manufacturing — an industry with a close tie to firearms and with similar needs — also were key factors, as opposed to gun control laws, the journal states.

“Whatever the in-state constraints on firearms and munitions sales and use, an arms maker’s market is primarily national and international, both of which are beyond the reach of local lawmakers,” Lanza wrote.

Officials in many states and on Capitol Hill revisited the gun debate during the first half of 2013 in response to the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, in which 20 children and six educators were fatally shot.

And while President Obama, the governor and others called for tough new reforms, the National Rifle Association countered by insisting that the best way to deter gun violence would be to make firearms more available.

Lanza referred to an often-cited quote from NRA President Wayne LaPierre, who had urged states to arm their classrooms. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre said.

Congress took up the issue of gun laws for the first time in nearly a decade, but it failed to enact universal background checks, a reinstated ban on military-style assault weapons, a prohibition on high-capacity magazines or other proposed safeguards.

And while Connecticut embraced these new limits, and joined Colorado, Maryland and New York in adopting the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, many other states also responded by loosening restrictions on firearms, Lanza noted.

The state’s chief business lobby, the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, declined to comment on the study.