Gun executive calls for cooperation on new laws
It was a mixed week for Joe Bartozzi as a top executive at a gun manufacturer, O.F. Mossberg & Sons in North Haven.
His 30-year-old son last week bagged his first-ever pheasant in Durham, a happy event albeit not with a shotgun made by Mossberg, where Bartozzi is executive vice president and general counsel. But of course, the nation spent that week trying to make sense of the latest mass shooting, this time at a church in Texas.
“I’m sick to my stomach over this type of thing,” Bartozzi said. “I don’t know what to do about this.”
Gun control advocates, led by Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, both D-Conn., say there’s plenty that Bartozzi and executives of companies that make versions of the AR-15, military style, semiautomatic rifle could do. Stop making that weapon, for starters, they say; support universal background checks, for another; stop using military images in advertising, for a third.
If only it were that simple.
Mossberg, with 230 employees in North Haven, is one of four Connecticut companies that make a version of the controversial rifle. Colt, known by various corporate names over the decades, developed the newly invented gun into the M-16 automatic rifle in the years right before the Vietnam war, rolled out the first civilian version in 1964 and still makes it in West Hartford. Stag Arms manufactures the AR-15 in New Britain.
And last week , many of us learned that Sturm, Ruger & Co., based in Fairfield, also makes the AR-15, in factories elsewhere. Ruger made the one used in Texas.
Bartozzi was one of the few industry executives who stood up and talked in a level-headed way after the Sandy Hook catastrophe five years ago next month. Again , he refused to hide behind a corporate veil of silence. Say what you will about this gun and this industry, open communication matters because there are no easy answers.
“Every time there’s a shooting, the first thing they do is politicize these things,” Bartozzi said “By politicizing it, people then run to their corners and we end up talking past each other.”
By “they,” he means guncontrol advocates and especially elected leaders and especially Murphy, who issued a harrowing statement last Sunday, saying the mass horrors are not inevitable, and are the result of a “flood of dangerous weapons” that fall into the hands of dangerous people.
“As my colleagues go to sleep tonight, they need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theaters, and city streets,” Murphy wrote even before we knew the victims’ names.
It’s an emotional reaction for which Murphy doesn’t apologize, developed not over the years but overnight on Dec. 14, 2012 in Newtown, same as with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
“We want to be part of the solution,” he said. “We don’t think we’re part of the problem.”