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Connecticut gunmakers mull moving after losing gun law fight

By Mary Ellen Clark

MERIDEN, Connecticut (Reuters) - Two Connecticut gunmakers have threatened to leave the state following the passage last week of one of the toughest gun-control laws in the United States, which came in the wake of the Newtown school shooting.

Executives at PTR Industries and Stag Arms said they were considering moving their companies because of the law, which bans high-capacity ammunition clips of the kind used in the December school shooting and adds to the firearms covered by the state's assault-weapons ban.

The firms are already being wooed by officials from gun-friendlier states, such as Texas, Florida and Arkansas.

"Our business can no longer survive in Connecticut - the former Constitution state," said John McNamara, vice president of New Britain-based PTR, which makes military-style rifles. "We are making a call to all involved in our industry to leave this state, close your doors and show our politicians the true consequences of their hasty and uninformed action."

The state's weapons industry, which also includes Colt Defense and Sturm, Ruger & Co and says it employs about 3,000 people, had lobbied against the law, which Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy had pushed for.

"The governor thinks about jobs day and night," said Andrew Doba, a Malloy spokesman. "But we must prioritize public safety. And the bill that he signed into law will prioritize public safety."

Twenty-six people, including 20 school children, were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on December 14 by Adam Lanza, whose attack ended when he heard police sirens approaching and turned his weapon on himself.

PTR said a majority of its 42 employees have agreed to move with the company. McNamara would not say which states have been courting the company but hopes to be out of Connecticut by the end of the year.

Stag Arms, a maker of AR-15 style rifles also based in New Britain, has been approached with offers to move to states including Texas, Michigan, Florida, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and Nebraska, said owner Mark Malkowski.

He said he is in talks with some of the states about relocating.

"When they passed such overreaching legislation, it caused brand damage which makes it difficult to manufacture here," Malkowski said.

Malkowski said he has not yet made up his mind whether to move, in part because he was unsure how many of his employees would be willing to move.

"My No. 1 concern is my 200 employees, with families," Malkowski said. "Some are willing to move, some are not. This is their home as well as mine."

Officials with Colt and Strum, Ruger did not respond to calls seeking comment.

But even smaller gun businesses that said they could not leave the state said they worry about the repercussions of the new law.

"People are afraid to bring guns out," said Douglas Odishoo, owner of Delta Arsenal, a gunsmith, retailer and indoor firing range in Wallingford. "It's a ghost town in here."

(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Kenneth Barry)

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