In a March op-ed in the Hartford (Conn.) Courant, Colt president and CEO Dennis Veilleux, wrote that the proposed assault weapon ban there "will irreparably damage — if not destroy — the brand of any Connecticut firearms manufacturer."

Like many gun companies, Colt manufactures a version of the AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle police said was used in the Newtown, Conn., shooting that killed 20 children and six educators. Colt has not announced plans to leave Connecticut, but other companies have.

On April 9, PTR Industries, a small Bristol, Conn.-based firearms manufacturer, announced it would leave, even though it had not yet identified a place to go. A statement on the company's website said that it hopes to complete the move by the end of 2013.

"We are making a call to all involved in our industry to leave this state, close your doors and show our politicians the true consequences of their hasty and uninformed actions," the statement read.

Several analysts said Beretta's military contract suggests that the company likely will maintain a presence near Washington, D.C. But even if the company ultimately chooses to expand in Maryland, it may have insulated itself from potential customer backlash.

"They're publicly putting out the perception that they don't agree with the legislation and they're on the side of the customer," said Samadi, the IBISWorld analyst.

Gun demand is so strong that Wedbush Securities gun analyst Rommel Dionisio doubts there will be market consequences for companies that stay in states that ban their products.

"That's silly," he said. "Stores can't even keep assault weapons on the shelf right now. Consumers have been flooding into stores to buy these. Consumer demand for technical rifles is stronger today than it's ever been."

Uprooting a company for political reasons — even with tax incentives in a new home — primarily hurts the business that moves, Dionisio said.

"They've got a skilled labor force that's building these products," he explained. "They're losing [them], plus the cost of moving an entire manufacturing plant."

Like Beretta, New York-based Remington also threatened to leave its home state, but on May 7 issued a statement saying it would not move for now; it is, however leaving its options open.

"While we are unhappy with the misguided acts of our elected politicians, Remington will not run or abandon its loyal and hard working 1,300 employees without considerable thought and deliberation," the company said.

Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, helped publicize the offer of a Missouri man to give free land near a railroad to any gun manufacturer who wants to move from a state with new gun control laws. The man's gesture, Pratt said, reveals a common sentiment among gun owners: They would offer support to gun manufacturers who choose to move, but not shun those who don't.

"I don't think the companies are going to have a backlash from the customer base," he said. "If anything, they'll have our sympathy."

ecox@baltsun.com