Gun ex­ec­u­tive calls for co­op­er­a­tion on new laws

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - dhaar@hearstct­media.com

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.”

DAN HAAR

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