HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry extolled the tax policies and regulatory climate of his state as he courted gun manufacturers that have threatened to leave Connecticut since the state passed new gun-control laws in response to the Newtown school massacre.
Perry shot at a firing range at Connecticut's venerable Colt Manufacturing Co., one of the plants he toured, and met privately with company owners and other businesses at a downtown Hartford restaurant. At a brief news conference afterward, the Republican offered a conservative policy blueprint in a state run by Democrats.
"Are your tax policies really in the best interest of your job creators?" he asked. "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?"
While gun makers may be unlikely to leave behind their factories and skilled workforces, executives say Texas is an appealing location. Some also said the out-of-state attention was a contrast with Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who they say has shown little regard for a local industry that dates to the Revolutionary War.
Malloy, a Democrat, signed new gun restrictions into law in April, four months after 20 children and six educators were murdered by a lone gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Joe Bartozzi, senior vice president and general counsel at O.F. Mossberg & Sons, welcomed Perry's visit. The North Haven gun maker employs 270 workers in Connecticut and 400 in Texas.
Bartozzi contrasted Perry's interest in the business and the jobs it provides with what he called "less than flattering remarks" in recent months by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and Malloy about the gun industry.
Asked about the possibility of expanding in Texas, Bartozzi said, "That would make more sense. That would be more logical for us."
The political climate in Connecticut is one of the factors, he said. He also said taxes and costs are higher in Connecticut.
Mark T. Malkowski, president of Stag Arms in New Britain, said he's been in touch with Perry's office and met with the governor in Houston last month. He and Perry spoke about taxes, he said, and what Texas is doing "to keep it a very friendly place for businesses." Another topic was the cultural differences between Connecticut and Texas, which is perceived as less hostile to guns.