HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Representatives of Connecticut's gun industry went to the Capitol on Monday to speak out against attempts to ban certain guns and push for restrictions to prevent people with mental problems from obtaining weapons.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc., the industry's trade group, and several manufacturers said they hope the venerable industry has a say in efforts by the legislature to curb gun violence. The move follows the killings of 20 children and six educators at a Newtown elementary school in December. A 52-member legislative task force met Monday.
"As we consider the necessary changes to make our society safer, we have a responsibility to consider the ramifications on the firearms and sporting industry that has contributed much to the state's history and culture," said Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the foundation.
Keane and industry executives who met with the media said they are not offering specific proposals to the task force, but said any new rules or legislation should focus on restricting access to guns. Banning weapons such as automatic or semiautomatic weapons would jeopardize jobs, they said.
Joe Bartozzi, senior vice president and general counsel at O.F. Mossberg, said the industry wants lawmakers to strengthen background checks of potential gun buyers. Many states fail to provide mental health records and felony conviction information in a timely fashion, he said.
"I think access to firearms is a root cause of this problem, and if we don't address that we're in big trouble," he said.
Rich Roland, a worker at O.F. Mossberg & Sons Inc., a North Haven gun manufacturer, said banning firearms will not end gun violence.
"They're not getting to the root cause of the problem, and the root cause is on the mental health side," he said. "It isn't the firearm."
The gun industry has historically had a strong presence in Connecticut, dating to the mid-19th century when Colt Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Co. began operating in Hartford. Several other gun makers do business in Connecticut and appeared at the legislative hearing.
The industry says it supports 7,340 jobs with total wages of $522 million.
Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams criticized the industry for not doing enough to sell guns that cannot be used by unauthorized people.
"How about marketing firearms from a safety point of view?" he asked. "I have yet to find a significant emphasis on safety in firearms."
The task force on gun violence and children's safety is focusing on gun and ammunition laws, mental health services and school safety. Legislative leaders say they hope to take action before the end of February, though the legislative session adjourns in June.
Stephen Singer can be reached at http://twitter.com/SteveSinger10