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Editorial: Targeting Gun Makers; N.H. Woos Disgruntled Manufacturers

In Connecticut, lawmakers appalled by last December’s massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School reached bipartisan agreement this week on what is being hailed as the most far-reaching gun-control legislation in the country. Among other things, it would require anyone purchasing a rifle or shotgun to obtain a state-issued certificate of eligibility; mandate that people convicted of any of 40 weapons offenses register with the state; expand the state’s existing assault-weapon ban; and require universal background checks for the sale of all firearms.

In New Hampshire, by contrast, the slaughter of innocents in Newtown is seen by a group of conservative legislators not as grounds for increased gun restrictions but as a potential economic development tool. That is, they think tougher gun control measures enacted in other states could be used to lure disgruntled firearms manufacturers here.

The New Hampshire House Republican Alliance, whose members style themselves as constitutional conservatives (presumably in contrast to unconstitutional conservatives), has written letters to Beretta USA Corp. in Maryland and Colt Manufacturing Co. in Connecticut to inquire whether tougher gun controls proposed in those states in the wake of Sandy Hook might induce them to relocate to New Hampshire. The group points out that the Granite State is already gun friendly, being home to 80 manufacturers that produce firearms or components, and cites laws on the books preventing restrictions on firearms manufacturing. Plus, the state does not have an income or sales tax, the alliance notes, although it is unclear whether corporate taxation was discussed in the letter. So far, the gun manufacturers have not replied to this overture.

Maybe that’s because New Hampshire is outgunned when it comes to wooing gun makers. The New York Times reports that Texas Gov. Rick Perry and some legislators in that state have already sent letters to 34 different firearms and accessory manufacturers, including Beretta and Smith & Wesson in Massachusetts, encouraging them to relocate to the Lone Star State. Not only that, a state senator from Wichita Falls is proposing to add incentives for gun manufacturers to the state’s economic development law.

But relocating a major manufacturing operation is not lightly done, even in a fit of pique. There are things like machine tools and the need for skilled employees to think about. And as Joe Bartozzi, general counsel for O.F. Mossberg & Sons, a Connecticut-based gun manufacturer, notes, “If there was a federal ban on certain types of firearms, it wouldn’t matter where you were.”

On the other hand, New Hampshire does have a distinguished record of successfully peddling stuff that isn’t good for human health, like booze and cigarettes, to out-of-staters. So guns could fit nicely into that portfolio.

After all, explains Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Londonderry Republican and a member of the House Republican Alliance, “We’re the ‘live free or die’ state.” Parents of the Newtown victims may be forgiven if the inspirational nature of that particular motto is lost on them, given that their children were required to die in order to vindicate the freedom of others to own assault weapons.