Conn. gun company moves, could Maryland be next?

Connecticut will lose its first gun manufacturer in the wake of its strict new gun law, and the South Carolina economic development officials who lured them to the Palmetto state may woo disaffected Maryland gun companies next.

"We'll be looking at pretty much all of the northeast," said Brad Lofton, president and chief executive officer of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation.

As for Maryland's companies - at least two have threatened to leave - Lofton said, "We may be calling on them."

States that consider themselves gun-friendly began touting their economic benefits earlier this year as a series of states considered new gun laws after 20 children and six educators were killed at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school. 

South Carolina economic development officials convinced Bristol-based PTR Industries to move there - beating out Texas and four other states.  South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will formally announce the move next week. Through a spokesman, Haley declined to answer questions about which Maryland companies - if any - her office was courting. 

PTR, which makes assault rifles, threatened to leave Connecticut after that state passed a ban on high-capacity magazines and added more guns to the list banned for sale. This week, the company announced a business park near Myrtle Beach would be its new home.

"One hundred percent of our product line is illegal in Connecticut," said John McNamara, PTR's vice president of sales, said in an interview with Reuters. "They just want to collect our tax dollars on a product that they don't think is safe to own."

Maryland's new law banning magazines to 10 bullets or less an forbidding the sale of 45 types of assault weapons has also prompted gun companies to threaten leaving. At least seven states besides South Carolina have made overtures to Maryland gun manufacturers. Beretta USA has its headquarters in Prince George's County and said it has no immediate plans to leave but will consider making future expansions in other states.

Lofton said that Stag Arms, another Connecticut gun maker, had narrowed down its relocation options to Texas and South Carolina. He said the state can layer as many as 15 different incentives to gun manufacturers, including real estate deals, training for workers, lower taxes and cheaper utilities. 

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