That Connecticut's congressional delegation is battling for gun safety legislation while trying to have a historic gun manufactory designated a National Historic Park is a perhaps unfortunate coincidence — but nothing more than that.
The factory is the former Colt Armory in Hartford's South Meadows, whence came many of the country's signature firearms, from the six-gun to the M-16. U.S. Rep. John Larson and other members of the delegation, backed by state and city officials, have been trying for years to get the armory and its surrounding 19th-century industrial village known as Coltsville named a national park.
Mr. Larson and Sen. Richard Blumenthal have introduced legislation again this year. A CT Mirror story said that, apart from the merits of the project, "the bipartisan fight over gun control legislation may make it more difficult for Connecticut's Democratic lawmakers to win needed GOP support for Coltsville."
Well, it shouldn't. The point of national historic sites is to protect areas of historic significance. No one really questions the importance of Coltsville, once the world's largest private armory. It was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution in this country, of the assembly line production, interchangeable parts and precision machining that made this country the envy of the world. Like the Silicon Valley of the 20th century, Coltsville drew the best mechanics, tinkerers and inventors of the time.
Would we not want to tell this story because there is a national debate about gun safety? Did the country close Monticello or Mount Vernon during the civil rights movement? Should we close the Lowell National Historic Park because its textile mills didn't meet subsequent OSHA standards?
The present is not the past. Congress ought to be able to debate ways to keep guns out of the wrong hands while at the same time appreciating the role that gunmaking played in the country's history. If attitudes toward guns have evolved, the Coltsville National Historic Park will have a museum that can tell that story.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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