Leaders from the National Shooting Sports Foundation and Connecticut-based firearms manufacturers held a press conference today to discuss the important role the industry plays in Connecticut’s economy and its willingness to work with the state legislature to be part of the solution in making society safer.
More than 100 people, including representatives from every major media outlet in the state, filled Room 1B of the Legislative Office Building at 9 a.m. for today’s press conference.
“Like all Americans, members of the National Shooting Sports Foundation are deeply saddened and sympathize with the victims of the tragic events that occurred on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn. Members of the firearms industry share the goal of all Americans, wanting to see violence in our society reduced and our communities and children made safer,” Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel, said in leading off today’s press conference. “The industry welcomes the opportunity to participate in the national conversation about how to achieve our shared goal, and we also welcome the opportunity to be part of that conversation here in Connecticut. In order to have a meaningful, real and effective solution to achieve our shared goal, it is important that our industry be part of that discussion.
“The firearms industry was founded in Connecticut by Eli Whitney — our industry today still contributes significantly to the Connecticut economy. We generate $1.75 billion in economic activity in Connecticut, and are responsible for over 7,300 jobs here in Connecticut,” Keane added. “We’re here to listen to what the legislature has to say and to work with the legislature, to be at the table to craft a solution.”
Joining Keane at the press conference were a number of Connecticut-based industry leaders — Colt’s Manufacturing Co. President/CEO Dennis Veilleux, Stag Arms President Mark Malkowski, O.F. Mossberg & Sons Senior Vice President/General Counsel Joe Bartozzi, Sturm, Ruger & Co. General Counsel Kevin Reed, Ammunition Storage Components Owner/President Jonathan Scalise and Savage Sports Corp. President/CEO Ron Coburn — along with numerous employees of the various businesses.
“We understand that Connecticut’s leaders are undertaking a very difficult task on a very complex and emotional issue,” Veilleux said. “And we want you to know we are committed to being part of the solution.”
Veilleux talked about the proud history Colt’s Manufacturing has had in Connecticut, dating back more than 175 years, and how that history has been recognized by lawmakers in their efforts to make the Colt factory building in Hartford a national park. Colt’s employs approximately 670 people at its West Hartford facility, he said.
“As we consider the necessary changes to make our society safer, we have a responsibility to consider the ramifications on the firearms and sporting industry that has contributed much to the state’s history and culture and continues to play a vital role as a community citizen and provider of manufacturing jobs,” Veilleux said. “We have a responsibility and an opportunity to come together and make positive change based on the facts.”
Veilleux added that a key fact regarding criminal use of firearms is the issue of unauthorized access to them, and this should be a critical area of primary focus in any efforts to make Connecticut “safer and saner.” He spoke of the industry’s support of making immediate improvements to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) as one of the highest priorities.
Bartozzi said the industry’s message to the state legislature today was very simple — to be part of any meaningful discussion concerning safe use, storage and access to firearms.
“Mossberg is the oldest family-owned and operated firearms manufacturer in the country, and we feel this is our community as well,” Mr. Bartozzi said. “We are proud to be here and we want to be part of the solution.”
For Stag Arms of New Britain, Malkowski reiterated that the goal for a safer society was first and foremost to his business.
“We can definitely be part of the solution. We have a lot of input and expertise, and we can all work together to have a safer community,” Malkowski said.
Speaking on behalf of Ammunition Storage Components of New Britain, Scalise spoke of his company’s desire for a “reasonable and enduring solution for the safety of our communities.”
Coburn, whose Savage Sports Corp. employs more than 800 people in five different states (including Suffield), called the issue “personal” to him.
“My heart was stomped on as well by what happened in Sandy Hook. It’s very important we take the time to understand what happened here and in other parts of the country. In my business, if there’s a major problem, first thing we do is analyze it, look at it carefully, know what is going on first before you make any recommendations or changes,” Coburn said. “I would ask that this task force does the same thing — take the time to understand what happened, decide what can be fixed first, and then work your way down through that list.
“I care, we all care. That’s the reason we’re here today,” Coburn added.