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Texas Gov. Rick Perry tours Connecticut gun factories seeking jobs

June 18, 2013|By Michael Muskal
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry arrives at the Ferguson Library in Stamford, Conn., to speak on civility in politics.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry arrives at the Ferguson Library in Stamford, Conn.,… (Jason Rearick / Stamford…)

Six months after a lone gunman invaded a Connecticut elementary school and shot 20 children and six adults to death, the massacre in Newtown remains the symbol most often used by gun control advocates to push for tougher laws.

But for some, like Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a former and likely future presidential candidate, it may also be a business opportunity.

Perry this week toured gun manufacturers in Connecticut as part of a five-day swing through the Northeast touting his state’s pro-business tax and regulatory policies in the hope of wooing jobs down to the Lone Star State. Along with gun manufacturers, Perry told reporters during a brief news conference Monday night that he has also spoken to financial and pharmaceutical industries about moving to Texas.

“Are your tax policies really in the best interest of your job creators?” Perry asked after meeting with corporate executives in Hartford. “Is your regulatory climate one of which really allows your citizens to be able to enjoy the freedoms that they can have or they should have or that they think they should have? Or are they going to relocate somewhere?”

Perry, a conservative Republican who likes to pitch the advantages of low taxes, little oversight and government incentives to prospective businesses, also has made similar pitches in other states. He spoke in New York on Sunday and in the past has urged California's high-tech, biotechnology, financial, insurance and film industries to move out. He once called on businesses in financially pressed Illinois “to leave ... while there's still time.”

But the visit to gun manufacturers in Connecticut took on special meaning because of December’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where Adam Lanza killed 26 before committing suicide. Lanza started his shooting spree by killing his mother at the home they shared.

After the massacre, states including Colorado, Connecticut and New York toughened their laws and the Obama administration tried -- and has failed so far -- to get passed a package of tougher laws including background checks and limits to high-capacity ammunition magazines.

In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy did succeed in getting gun control legislation through the Legislature. The laws require background checks for most private gun sales, expand the state's assault-weapons ban and prohibit the sale of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Gun rights groups have been especially hostile to Malloy in a state where the gun industry was born when Samuel Colt founded his gun company in 1848.

On Monday, Perry toured Colt Manufacturing, where he shot at a firing range. As a conservative Republican from the West, Perry was able to stress his different attitude about guns as well as the financial advantages he sees in his home state.

Malloy, according to local media reports, made an unannounced visit to the Texas governor's meeting in Hartford, to welcome Perry. “I don't think he understands that kind of loss and how it's affected people in our state,” Malloy said of the massacre.

Along with gun control, Malloy has made economic development an issue and offered tax credits. “We compete for every job, and we're doing a pretty good job at it,” he said.

Governors acting as salespeople for their states is hardly unusual. South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard was also in Connecticut on a job-hunting tour. There is no animosity about the trips, Perry noted of Malloy.

“He was very, very genuine,” Perry told reporters, “and, you know, look I totally understand that he's probably not crazy that I'm here trying to recruit his businesses, but that's part of, I think, what we do, or that's how I look at it.”

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