But the people assembled, impatient with his tale of personal transformation, began chanting: “Pass the law! Pass the law! Pass the law!”
The conflict over gun control in Connecticut goes back many years, in part because this is a state — and a region — with a deep tradition of firearms manufacturing. The six New England states produce 40 percent of the pistols and 80 percent of the revolvers in the United States. Those same states, plus New York and New Jersey, make 64 percent of the rifles, according to the NSSF.
Smith & Wesson, in business since before the Civil War, and Savage Arms are located in Springfield, Mass., just up the Connecticut River from Hartford. Springfield was also the home of the federal armory that President George Washington established in 1794. The armory produced hundreds of thousands of rifled muskets for the Union during the Civil War, and millions of semiautomatic M1 rifles for G.I.s in World War II, before closing in 1968.
Colt, another fabled company dating to the 19th century, has a factory in West Hartford, Conn. If you go to Colt Park, near the old Colt weapons factory along the Connecticut River, you’ll see a statue of Samuel Colt (1814-1862).
Other gun companies in the region include Remington, Sig Sauer, Marlin, Ruger and Mossberg.
But the politics of New England haven’t been gun-friendly, and since the Newtown massacre, almost every legislature in the region is pushing for tighter regulations on guns and ammunition. One option for firearms companies here is to flee the state and set up shop in a more congenial environment.
But gunsmithing isn’t like other industries: It’s precision manufacturing, requiring a talent pool that doesn’t exist just anywhere. Connecticut has so many skilled machinists and such a long firearms-manufacturing history that the gun companies would rather stay on traditional turf.
“It seems to be that about every year we are going up to Hartford because another bill has been introduced regarding anti-gun legislation,” said Joseph Bartozzi, senior vice president and general counsel at O.F. Mossberg & Sons, a family-owned gun manufacturer in Connecticut since 1919.
“The family still runs the business. We’re the oldest family-owned and -operated firearms business in America,” he said. “This is our home. We don’t want to be forced out.”
Guns as products
On the east side of New Britain, Mark Malkowski, a baby-faced gunmaker, has 200 employees working in a series of low-slung machine shops. This is Stag Arms, although you’d never know it from the street. There’s no sign. A typed note on the front door shoos away visitors, saying it’s not a retail outlet. The only evidence of a gunsmithing operation is the muffled pop-pop-pop from the indoor range where the weapons are test-fired.