Gun Manufacturers Pull Support For National Park Proposal
By CHRISTOPHER KEATING
July 09, 2013
Saying that anti-gun legislators are hypocrites, a prominent gun lobby has withdrawn support for a federal bill that would create the Coltsville National Historical Park in Hartford.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gun manufacturers that include Colt's Manufacturing Co. and is based in Newtown, has sent a letter to members of the all-Democratic Connecticut congressional delegation and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy declaring that it is deceitful to support the national park and gun-control laws at the same time.
"Our industry is offended by the hypocrisy of our elected officials in Congress and the state government that simultaneously advocate for legislation that pays homage to our industry's heritage and legacy in Connecticut by establishing a national park on the site of the legendary, iconic Colt factory, while at the same time pursue gun control legislation,'' said a two-page letter signed by Larry Keane, the foundation's general counsel.
"As major contributors to the state's economy, we find it unacceptable for lawmakers to propose banning our products and hindering the ability of Connecticut companies to grow their businesses, create more good-paying manufacturing jobs, and contribute hundreds of millions in taxes," the letter states. "Our Connecticut members are unwilling to trade valuable manufacturing jobs for ticket-taker jobs at a national park."
Keane's letter says that the Democratic legislators who are supporting the park are also hurting the gun industry and its jobs in Connecticut. The letter states that "Governor Malloy and Senator [Chris] Murphy publicly accuse our industry of just wanting to sell as many guns as possible to criminals and the mentally ill, and that selling guns to criminals is part of the industry's business model.''
Murphy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, along with other Democrats, blasted the gun lobby for their views.
"It's pretty funny that the NSSF actually believes that their position on Coltsville matters to anyone,'' Murphy said. "I can tell you that Chairman [Ron] Wyden was not waiting to hear some gun lobbyist's position on Coltsville before proceeding on our bill to revitalize the South End and downtown of Hartford. The NSSF should go back to their bread and butter — scaring people into believing that the only way to stop gun violence in our schools is to put more guns in our schools."
Blumenthal said that the trade association's action "disregards and disrespects the historic legacy of Coltsville."
"NSSF's disappointing attempt to diminish the proud legacy of Coltsville as retribution for Connecticut's support of common sense gun safety measures is petty and vindictive and shows a complete misunderstanding of the profound significance of this important historic designation,'' Blumenthal said.
Congressmen John B. Larson and Joe Courtney said that the national park proposal should have nothing to do with controversial gun-control issues that failed this year in Congress.
"Three generations in my family — my grandfather, father, and brother — worked at Colt," Courtney said. "Colt is part of Connecticut's historic and economic fabric, and the establishment of the Coltsville historical park should be completely separate from contemporary debate on reasonable criminal background checks supported by a vast majority of state residents."
Larson called the factory complex "a site of national historic significance. … It was and will remain the cradle of the Industrial Revolution — the site of precision manufacturing, assembly line production and interchangeable parts.''
He added, "Historic designation has nothing to do with universal background checks, which 91 percent of the American people support.''
The gun-control debate became hotly contested over the past six months after the shooting deaths of 20 children and six women at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012. Malloy and the Democratic-controlled legislature passed new restrictions on the sale of guns, including the AR-15 that is manufactured in Connecticut.
Malloy's spokesman, Andrew Doba, said Tuesday that the Coltsville project is an economic development plan with residential units, office space, and a museum.
"The question is, does the gun manufacturing industry only care about economic development when it comes to selling guns?'' Doba asked. "Frankly, it's hypocritical to talk about the importance of jobs and economic development and then oppose a project that would create jobs and promote economic development — and put no one's safety at risk."
As the trade association for the gun and ammunition industry, the sports shooting foundation represents more than 9,500 members. Those include famous names in the industry that were founded in Connecticut, including Remington, Ruger, Colt, Winchester, Mossberg, and Marlin.
The debate over whether Coltsville should be declared a national park dates back more than 20 years. Bills to establish Coltsville National Historical Park have been sent this year to legislative committees in both the U.S. House and Senate. In 2010, a version of the legislation made it to the House floor but did not gain enough votes to pass, as nearly every Republican in the chamber lined up against it. Some insiders believe that the Coltsville proposal will not come up this year in the Republican-controlled U.S. House.
Courant staff writer Wes Duplantier contributed to this report.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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