Mississippi Lawmaker Wants to Lure Connecticut Gun Makers Away

Mississippi Speaker Gunn said his state would welcome Connecticut gun makers.

Philip Gunn

A Mississippi lawmaker has reached out to gun makers in Connecticut and beyond in an attempt to lure them from to his Southern state.

Philip Gunn, the Speaker of the House in Mississippi, sent letters to 14 gun manufacturers, including several in Connecticut, on Thursday, the day Vice President Joe Biden was in Connecticut for a conference on gun violence.

“Gun manufacturers are under attack in anti-Second Amendment states,” Gunn said in a statement issued yesterday. “Today, I wrote a letter to CEOs of leading firearm manufacturers urging them to relocate to Mississippi where their industry and jobs will be appreciated.”

The letters went to Colt Manufacturing; Ruger Firearms, O.F. Mossberg & Sons, based in North Haven; and Charter Arms, based in Shelton; companies that collectively employ hundreds of people, according to the Web site for the state Department of Labor.

“I have been following the national news and cannot help but notice that your industry is being attacked. You have provided many jobs to the state of Connecticut for many years and now because of national politics you are being demonized,” Gunn wrote in a letter to the CEO, in which personally invited the company to move to Connecticut.

“In our state, you will not be criticized for providing goods to the law abiding who enjoy hunting, shooting or who just want the peace of mind that comes with the constitutional right to protect their families.

Dennis Veilleux, President and CEO, Colt's Manufacturing Company, LLC, said Connecticut is their home, but they have concerns about the governor's plan.

"While we continually get offers from other states, Connecticut has been our home for 175 years and our preference is to work with the legislature and the Governor toward our common goal of a safer community. There are solutions we can agree on right now but the Governor's proposal to ban the most popular sporting rifle in the world will make no one safer and creates a very unfriendly business environment for Colt's Manufacturing Company," Veilleux said in a statement.

When contacted for a statement about Mississippi's attempt to lure companies, the governor's office said Malloy's proposal wouldn’t affect manufacturing in the state.

Under the governor’s proposal, you would not be able to buy or sell any of the weapons in state, but without a similar federal assault weapons ban, a company would be able to sell their products where their use is permitted. 

Gunn said he and the Mississippi House of Representatives have passed several measures during the 2013 Session to protect the rights and privacy of gun owners.

“We need more businesses to establish home base in Mississippi,” he 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.”

Gunn has not yet heard anything from any Connecticut gun companies, but said he heard that a manufacturer in another state is looking to move.

Connecticut has been at the center of the national gun control debate since December, when 20 first graders and six educators were killed in a shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Gov. Dannel Malloy has also been central to the debate and has frequently met Biden to help shape national policy.

Yesterday, the governor outlines his own plan, which includes strengthening a ban on military-style assault weapons, bans large capacity magazines,  mandates universal background checks and requiring firearms and ammunition dealers to maintain electronic records of all firearms and ammunition purchased and sold. 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who helped organize the conference, said many he does not think the plea will sway local companies to move to Mississippi.

“I welcome the competitive aspect of industry, but at the end of the day, what will determine the decision of these companies is the skilled workforce, quality of life, educational system, which in Connecticut is far superior to Mississippi,” Blumenthal said. 

Gunn said people in Mississippi have a passion for the industry and gun makers would not be under attack in his state.

Blumenthal said the state of Connecticut supports the Second Amendment for responsible gun owners, Blumenthal said, and he works closely with local gun manufacturers to help secure defense contracts.

Many of the reforms being discussed would be national in scope, so they would affect Mississippi as much as Connecticut, Blumenthal said, and he thinks local companies will make responsible business decisions.

Gunn said his state cannot control what the federal government does about gun control, but that he invites firearms manufacturers to conduct their business in a "friendly environment."

"To the extent that we can, we want to support them and their industry," Gunn said. 

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