by REEVE HAMILTON
Gov. Rick Perry speaks wistfully — almost lovingly — about a rifle he recently fired while he was at a range in Leander owned by the manufacturer LaRue Tactical. “I’m incredibly passionate about a well-made piece of equipment,” Perry said in a phone interview last week, “whether it’s an automobile or a weapon.”
After the visit, LaRue posted Perry’s results online. From 100 yards away, the governor took three shots and skillfully grouped them together — two shots hit the same spot — mere millimeters from the center of the target.
“That was pretty good wasn’t it?” Perry said, though he reserved most of the credit for the machinery. “If you don’t have a very well-made weapon, then I don’t care how steady your aim, how controlled your breathing or how smooth your trigger pull is.”
As debates over gun control intensify across the nation, Perry and some of his colleagues in the Texas Legislature are pushing to have more weapons of this sort made in the state. Perry said his office has sent letters to 34 different firearms and accessories manufacturers in other states, particularly where stricter gun and ammunition laws are being considered or passed, encouraging them to relocate to Texas.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz have made similar overtures to out-of-state companies, including Beretta USA in Maryland and Smith & Wesson in Massachusetts. The effort is not limited to a letter-writing campaign. State Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, has filed a bill that would formally add incentive programs for gun manufacturers to the state’s economic development statute.
“Gun manufacturers and people in that industry have been under attack by states who are threatening their Second Amendment rights,” Estes said. “We want them to realize that Texas is open for business and Texas is a gun-friendly state.”
When the legislation was considered recently before the Senate Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security Committee, no one testified against it. One committee member, Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, voted against the bill, but his opposition had less to do with guns and more to do with giving the governor what Uresti called “a blank check to offer a variety of tax exemptions and other incentives” to such manufacturers.
Uresti, whose committee vote means the bill will likely be debated by the full Senate, rather than sliding through on the little-scrutinized local and uncontested calendar, argued that any businesses desiring to move to Texas should share the full burden of financing state services.
“According to the comptroller’s office, such tax breaks this year will cost the state $37.7 billion and school districts $6.2 billion in lost revenue,” he said. “I’m not against attracting gun and ammunition manufacturers to Texas.”
Perry said he does not need legislation to use state resources to recruit businesses to Texas; his activities related to gun-makers are just a part of his overall economic development strategy.
But, he added, “often there are pieces of legislation that get filed that send a message.”
Even the state’s gun control advocates concede that Texas is gun-friendly.
Marsha McCartney, president of the Texas Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, conceded that Texas is “a few election cycles away from passing laws like they did in Colorado.”
Lawmakers there recently passed bills limiting ammunition magazine capacity and requiring background checks for all gun purchasers. The move prompted gun accessory manufacturer Magpul Industries to announce on Facebook that it would begin its “transition out of the state.” Perry has been courting the company heavily.
McCartney said she did not have particular concerns about more weapons-related businesses moving to the state. “I’m sure they will follow the laws in Texans,” she said, “just like all Texans will have to follow the federal laws.”
The success of Texas’ recruitment efforts may hinge on how the federal gun control debate shakes out.
“If there was a federal ban on certain types of firearms, it wouldn’t matter where you were,” said Joe Bartozzi, senior vice president and general counsel for Connecticut-based gun manufacturer O.F. Mossberg & Sons. Bartozzi said support for measures that would curtail manufacturers appears to be waning in Washington, D.C.
On Thursday, President Obama delivered an impassioned speech aimed at breathing new life into the push for tighter federal gun laws. He referenced the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — not far from Mossberg headquarters — saying, “Shame on us if we’ve forgotten.”
Connecticut is considering gun control measures that include a potential ban on assault weapons of the sort made by Mossberg.
“All things being equal, we don’t want to move,” Bartozzi said. “But we have to consider that the Legislature here could do things that make staying here very difficult.”
Bartozzi said he has received inviting letters from Perry as well as from local chambers of commerce throughout Texas.
Perry accused those who have responded to recent tragedies by proposing tighter gun restrictions of “playing politics” and erroneously blaming weapons for societal failures.
His recruitment effort, he said, was different. “We’re responding to the age-old situation of, ‘Go live where you’re most comfortable,’” Perry said. “If other states want to restrict component manufacturing, that’s their call. Texas wants to be a place where freedom is still very much alive.”
Mossberg & Sons already has a toehold in Texas. The company recently expanded its roughly 20-year-old facilities in Eagle Pass. “It’s coincidental,” Bartozzi said, “but it certainly takes on much bigger import now.”
Some companies are coming unprompted. Though no one recruited him, John Harrington, a native Texan, recently decided to relocate his company, Shield Tactical, from Orange County to Shiner.
In Texas, he said, “it’s an iota of bureaucracy.” In California, he said, “it’s like, before you put up your range, you have to be worried about whether the noise level is going to bother the 10-headed duckmouse.”
Harrington said he is not concerned about more competition moving in. After all, he said, Texas is among the world’s top 20 economies.
“If Magpul wants to come and move right next door to me,” he added, “I say bring it on.”
REEVE HAMILTON reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.Email | Print
YAY !! … Just, “Yay!”. I certainly hope that we Texans NEVER see the day that the our GREAT STATE OF TEXAS would, in any wise, consider such a lame affront to The U.S. Constitution as has been the very shameful example in Colorado. I will not set foot in that state, or drive through it or fly over it, until it’s citizens repeal the abominable transgressions which have usurped our Bill of Rights, there.
And, BTW, as far as federal gun laws applying to Texas, the nature and extent of State’s Rights have yet to be fully weighed and defined. It just may be the case that anything that we make and use within the bounds of Texas are not subject to such controls and I am also hoping that the SCOTUS can read and comprehend our founder’s intent as well as any eighth grader surely can.
The lady from the Brady chapter of Texas thinks they are going to pass laws like that in Colorado here….hahahahahahaha! Must be based in good ole Austin Texas AKA the wash over area of people from CA and CO. They tend to stick there with the rest of the commies. Austin is an embarrassment to Texas. Obviously this moron has not been to a gun shop, gun show or gun range lately. Obviously not up to date on the numbers of republicans moving to Texas from all over the country to get away from people like her that are ruining their states. What a dumb a$$!!!! You will never take away the rights of the constitution from the people of Texas. We will never follow any unconstitutional laws brought on by commie losers like you. You can choose to be unarmed and become a victim if you like but you have no right to make that decision for others. How dare you!!!! You will never ever disarm Texas and you will never ever ruin this great state with your liberal commie ways of life! Liberals like you are a parasite. You suck off of your host till it dies and then move to the next. Do Texas a favor and go to California. Better yet, go live in Detroit since you like people being unarmed so much. Se how that works out!