NEW BRITAIN, Conn. – A Connecticut gun-maker announced on Wednesday it intends to leave the state, just six days after passage of restrictive gun control legislation, while two other manufacturers said they are considering relocation offers from other states.
Manufacturers also plan to lobby the state's congressional delegation next week "to make sure they hear from our side," said Mark Malkowski, president of Stag Arms in New Britain.
Bristol-based PTR said in a statement posted on its website that it has not decided where it will move, but has commitments from most employees to relocate. The company makes military-style rifles and employs more than 40 people. PTR Vice President John McNamara said the company expects to make a more formal announcement about a move within six weeks.
"Along with other companies in the trade, we were deeply apprehensive at the hurried process to develop new gun laws and fearful that it would generate unintended consequences for our industry," the company said.
With the legislation signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on April 4, "our worst fears were confirmed," the company said. "What emerged was a bill fraught with ambiguous definitions, insufficient considerations for the trade, conflicting mandates and disastrous consequences for the fundamental rights of the people of Connecticut."
The Connecticut Valley in Connecticut and western Massachusetts has been home to a large gun industry dating to the Revolutionary War.
Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Malloy, said the governor is committed to job creation, but additional gun restrictions were paramount following the shooting deaths in December of 20 children and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown.
"On this particular issue he's been clear: We need to prioritize public safety and this bill will improve public safety," he said.
The law adds more than 100 firearms to the state's assault weapons ban and creates what officials have called the nation's first dangerous weapon offender registry and eligibility rules for buying ammunition.
Malkowski said he's received many emails from customers "fed up with Connecticut."
"They urged us to pick up and leave," he said.
Malkowski said he spoke Tuesday with Texas economic development officials trying to lure the company, which was founded in 2003 and employs more than 200 employees.
"It's something we'll strongly consider," he said, adding that leaving Connecticut would be difficult. "If you're a lawyer with a laptop, that's one thing," he said. "It's not something we're going to do easily."
Jonathan Scalise, owner of Ammunition Storage Components, also of New Britain, said he's received offers from Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas. He said he will carefully evaluate the impact of a move on his business and its 150 employees.
"I have a very serious commitment to my employees, which is more than they got from their state legislators," he said.
Malkowski and Scalise said they will meet with members of Connecticut's congressional delegation next Tuesday and Wednesday to counter lobbying from gun control advocates.
An agreement between two conservative senators — Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania — was expected to make it likelier that the Senate's initial vote Thursday to begin debating gun legislation will succeed. But the fate of gun legislation remains unclear, clouded by opposition from many Republicans and moderate Democrats in the Democratic-led Senate and Republican-run House.
"I have a duty to make sure they hear something from our side," Malkowski said.