Following the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, individuals and groups ranging from elected officials to the National Rifle Association issued statements and pledges that they would do their part to prevent another tragedy like the Newtown shooting.
As Congress prepares to do battle over the Obama administration’s legislative recommendations and as Connecticut officials look to introduce legislation in the General Assembly in the next month and a half, it remains to be seen what role the gun industry will play in the upcoming debates.
Gun manufacturing has declined in Connecticut from 2007 to 2011 with the closure of a North Haven factory owned by The Marlin Firearms Co., but the state remains among the largest makers of firearms in the country, according to data made available by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Slightly more than 129,065 pistols, revolvers, rifles, shotguns and miscellaneous firearms were manufactured in Connecticut in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available.
That number represents just 30 percent of the 444,144 guns manufactured in Connecticut in 2009, and 20 percent of the 637,874 guns produced in Connecticut in 2007, according to a Business Journal analysis of ATF data.
While the data includes firearms produced by the likes of Colt’s Manufacturing Co. L.L.C., based in West Hartford, and O.F. Mossberg & Sons Inc., based in North Haven, it does not include firearms produced by Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc., which is based in Southport but has its primary manufacturing facilities in New Hampshire and Arizona.
Ruger, one of the country’s largest gunmakers, manufactured 464,000 guns in 2007, with the company’s output doubling to 933,560 guns in 2009.
In 2011, the company manufactured more than 1.14 million guns, and in March of last year, it was forced to temporarily suspend the acceptance of new orders due to overwhelming demand.
Mike Fifer, president and CEO of Ruger, said in an Aug. 20, 2012 statement that the company was on pace to surpass its record of 1.14 million firearms produced, after having produced its one millionth firearm by Aug. 15, 2012.
In 2011 testimony to state legislators, a representative of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), based in Newtown, said the state’s gun companies contribute $1.3 billion to the state’s economy annually.
Ruger has remained silent and avoided public comment since the shooting.
However, the manufacturer of rifles, pistols, revolvers and shotguns recently posted a letter template on its website, urging gun industry supporters to write to their elected officials to urge no new restrictions on gun purchases.
Ruger and NSSF representatives could not be reached for comment.
Freshman Sen. Christopher Murphy, speaking at a Jan. 17 roundtable in Stamford ahead of a meeting that took place the next day between Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Vice President Joseph R. Biden, was highly critical of the gun lobby.
“I’d be happy to talk to Connecticut gun manufacturers, but so far their representation in this debate – the NRA – has been abysmal,” Murphy told the Business Journal. “The NRA embarrasses itself and its members on a daily basis with the videos they’ve put and the statements they’ve made. If the gun manufacturers want to have a real debate here, they should probably stop speaking through the NRA.”
Murphy was joined at the Yerwood Community Center by Rep. Jim Himes, state officials, public safety officials and mental health providers, among others, with a chorus of voices calling for stricter gun laws, an expansion of mental health resources and a focus on community development as a means of stemming violence in urban centers.