America’s largest shotgun manufacturer, O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc., decided not to expand in Connecticut. Sure it was founded there 1919 and still has its corporate headquarters in North Haven. But in 2013 Connecticut rushed through legislation to ban some of Mossberg’s popular products. As a result, Mossberg CEO, Iver Mossberg, says, “Investing in Texas was an easy decision. It’s a state that is not only committed to economic growth but also honors and respects the Second Amendment and the firearm freedoms it guarantees for our customers.”
Mossberg has instead expanded its Maverick Arms, Inc. facility in Eagle Pass, Texas, with 116,000 new square-feet of factory space. Mossberg is not a small gun manufacturer. According to records kept by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Mossberg made 475,364 guns in America in 2011. Of those guns, a total of 423,570 were shotguns made for sportsmen, for shotgun sports enthusiasts, for law-enforcement and for people who want a shotgun to protect their homes and families.
More than 90 percent of Mossberg’s guns are now made in Texas. Some of its Connecticut jobs are going there, too. Tom Taylor, O.F. Mossberg & Sons’ senior vice president, sales & marketing, tells me, “We’re moving all wood gun stock production to our Texas facility. More of our product lines—like our modern sporting rifles—might move to Texas in the future. Texas has been very good to us. Also, our gun sales have been so dynamic over the last number of years. We’ve outgrown our facilities. This major expansion will help us keep up with demand.”
Mossberg is America’s oldest family owned and operated firearms manufacturer. It’s also the largest pump-action shotgun manufacturer in the world. Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) has been aggressively coaxing them to bring even more jobs to Texas—Mossberg has been making guns there since 1989. Perry has been seducing them with the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF), the state’s low taxes, simpler regulations and a skilled workforce.
Governor Rick Perry of Texas speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. Please attribute to Gage Skidmore if used elsewhere. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Governor Perry says, “This TEF investment in Maverick Arms will help create jobs and opportunity in Eagle Pass, while reaffirming Texas’ longstanding support of the Second Amendment.”
Contrast Governor Perry’s support with what Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy (D) said a few days after signing a massive gun-control bill in 2013 and it’s obvious which climate is more business friendly. On an appearance on CNN’s show “State of the Union,” Governor Malloy said, “What this is about is the ability of the gun industry to sell as many guns to as many people as possible—even if they are deranged, even if they are mentally ill, even if they have a criminal background. They don’t care. They want to sell guns.”
I’ve toured Mossberg’s facility in North Haven. I’ve interviewed its leadership and many of its engineers and its blue-collar workers running CNC machining, lathes and more. I’ve found them to be good, patriotic Americans who see guns as tools for self-defense, for hunting, for law enforcement, for those who love the shotgun sports and so on. All I can say is it is obvious Malloy hasn’t met those people working in his state and really doesn’t understand a large portion of America. If he’d toured those factories in his state and met with gun owners before signing legislation that uses the word “felony” 43 times, mostly as a threat to gun owners, he might have advocated and backed a law that could have done some good. He wouldn’t have had to look far for another point of view. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association that represents firearms manufacturers, is in Connecticut.
Actually, being from Connecticut, Malloy should have a better understanding of America’s gun makers and law-abiding gun owners. Connecticut, after all, isn’t just a “blue state” that happens to be 1/48th the size of Texas. Connecticut is where Samuel Colt set up shop in 1847. Colt’s revolvers have been credited with helping to win to the West, but less well known is the fact that historians also credit Colt’s factory with helping to advance manufacturing techniques in America, changes that helped stimulate America’s industrial revolution. Colt still has about 600 employees in the state.
Regardless of the facts, Governor Malloy signed the gun-control bill (Senate Bill 1160) into law on April 4, 2013. Four days later, President Barack Obama spoke at the University of Connecticut and said, “Connecticut has shown the way, and now is the time for Congress to do the same.” CBS CBS -0.45%reported that “Obama applauded the state legislature and Gov. Dan Malloy for passing ‘common sense’ bi-partisan legislation last week that calls for widespread restrictions on firearms.” The gun-control bill had been written behind closed doors and placed on legislators’ desks around 9 a.m. on April 3. At about 12:30 p.m. that same day the state Senate started debating the legislation as gun owners chanted outside, “Read the bill.” Maybe they’re all accomplished speed-readers and so did in fact read all the bill’s legal language, its gun bans, restrictions, and registration schemes. Whether they’d read it all or not, the Senate passed the bill 26-10 that same day. Hours later the House passed it 105-44. At noon the next day (April 5) Governor Malloy signed the bill.
That’s a harsh state climate for gun owners and firearms manufacturers. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), in 2012 gun manufacturers and associated businesses in Connecticut generated about $1.75 billion in economic activity and employed over 7,300 people. Those numbers are now falling in Connecticut even as guns continue to sell.
Taylor says, “Our MVP rifle series have surpassed our expectations by ten times. We can barely keep up with demand for our Duck Commander Series shotguns and our Muddy Girl shotguns. We’re having another solid year and are proud that our products are made in America.”
Mossberg isn’t alone. After Malloy signed his gun ban and other gun-control measures in 2013, Mark Malkowski, president of Stag Arms in New Britain, Conn., told me, “Some companies have seen brand damage because they operate in a state consumers see as unfriendly. We have to take this into account. We have to consider all our options. Tomorrow, for example, I have a meeting on the schedule with officials from Texas. They and other states would like us to take our business to them.”
Another gun company, PTR firearms, left Bristol, Conn., with about 60 employees to South Carolina. Stag Arms, meanwhile, is still considering its options as Mossberg—like Beretta, Remington and many other gun makers—shift away from states that treat law-abiding gun owners like they’re the problem, not a part of the solution.