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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Firearms and Political Influence

Previous posts have discussed how businesses can play states against one another The New York Times reports that the political influence of the firearms industry came to light when Connecticut's legislature considered a bill to require new markers on guns.
The Colt executive, Carlton S. Chen, said the company would seriously consider leaving the state if the bill became law. “You would think that the Connecticut government would be in support of our industry,” Mr. Chen said.
Soon, Connecticut lawmakers shelved the bill; they have declined to take it up since. Now, in the aftermath of the school massacre in Newtown, the lawmakers are formulating new gun-control measures, saying the state must serve as a national model.
But the failed effort to enact the microstamping measure shows how difficult the climate has been for gun control in state capitals. The firearm companies have played an important role in defeating these measures by repeatedly warning that they will close factories and move jobs if new state regulations are approved.
The companies have issued such threats in several states, especially in the Northeast, where gun control is more popular. But their views have particular resonance in Connecticut, a cradle of the American gun industry.
Colt, based in Connecticut since the 1800s, employs roughly 900 people in the state. Two other major gun companies, Sturm, Ruger & Company and Mossberg & Sons, are also based in the state. In all, the industry employs about 2,000 people in Connecticut, company officials said.
...In several states, the gun companies have enlisted unions that represent gun workers, mindful that Democratic lawmakers who might otherwise back gun control also have close ties to labor.
In Connecticut, the United Automobile Workers, which represents Colt workers, has testified against restrictions. The union’s arguments were bolstered last year when Marlin Firearms, a leading manufacturer of rifles, closed a factory in Connecticut that employed more than 200 people. Marlin cited economic pressures, not gun regulation, for the decision, but representatives of the gun industry have said the combination of the two factors could spur others to move.
The Center for Responsive Politics reports:
The National Rifle Association accounts for about 60 percent of what gun rights interest groups spent on lobbying in 2011 and the first three quarters of 2012. The other gun rights advocates include the Gun Owners of America; the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms; The National Shooting Sports Foundation; Safari Club International; Boone & Crockett Club, a group that aims to preserve a "hunting heritage"; and The Ohio Gun Collectors Association.

The NRA alone has spent more than ten times as much as gun control interest groups on lobbying in 2011 and the first three quarters of 2012.
Since 2006, 15 different organizations have mentioned the words "gun control" in their lobbying reports. Smith and Wesson, one of the nation's largest firearms manufacturers, has done so most frequently, mentioning the term 115 times. The National Rifle Association has the second-most mentions at 68.
The Center also reports on the overlap between Congress and interest groups:
The National Rifle Association has a very large board of directors, and two members of Congress are included on the list.
Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young -- who was re-elected with 65 percent of the vote in November -- and Oklahoma Democratic Rep. Dan Boren -- who will retire after the 112th Congress -- are both members of the NRA's board, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' personal finance data.