OP-ED | New Gun Law: Good Intentions Meet With Reality
Call it the law of unintended gun-sequences. Well-intentioned legislation passed by the General Assembly last month is disrupting the lives of firearms retailers, unnerving gun manufacturers, and inflicting a financial burden on the State Police.
As is often the case when lawmakers make laws and pass them, there was little consideration given to how the state was going to deal with the economic consequences of what is being hailed as the toughest gun law in the nation. But hey, what’s a few million dollars when you have the grieving residents of an entire state breathing down your neck?
State Police told lawmakers recently that they need 39 additional employees at an estimated cost of $2.6 million to perform an exploding number of new duties spawned by the new gun control law. Taxpayers would be expected to foot most of the bill.
A small army of office assistants, processing technicians, analysts, and identification technicians will be needed to deal with the background checks now required for all gun purchasers and the eligibility certificates buyers will need to purchase to acquire ammunition and long guns in just a few short months.
“It’s a substantial amount of work that needs to be entered into the system,” Lt. J. Paul Vance, the state police spokesman, told Hearst Connecticut Newspapers. “There is a lot of work.”
For obvious reasons, labor leaders often inflate estimates of the additional union hires needed for any new initiative. So the number will likely go down. Still, the state police has a mountain of work with a seven-figure price tag. The overall cost of the gun law to the state government was originally estimated at $17 million through the 2015 fiscal year, according to the General Assembly’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.
Gun retailers in the state say they’re groaning under the weight of the new law. If so, they’re groaning all the way to the bank, as weapons and ammo sales soared in the wake of the Newtown shooting, causing shortages in some stores. But there evidently was no shortage of paperwork and uncertainty associated with the new law. Indeed, some gun stores have had to hire additional help to deal with both the mad rush and the new bureaucracy.
And local police were reporting a surge in pistol permit applications, which now take almost twice as long to process, in part because of a backlog of 4,800 permits at the state level.
But if you’re hoping and praying for an economic recovery in Connecticut — and I most certainly am — it was troubling to learn that firearms manufacturers, who have in the past played such an important role in the state’s economic and cultural heritage, are threatening to move out of the state because of a perception that lawmakers are hostile to them.
PTR Industries announced last month the company would relocate, most likely to Texas. Others, including Colt & Sturm, Ruger and Stag Arms, are likely to follow suit, taking with them about 3,000 jobs and an estimated $1.75 billion in taxable revenues.
“If they leave, it’s because they want to leave. They have a decision to make — are they loyal to their employees who helped them build that company in this place?” Gov. Dannel Malloy surmised last week at a community forum in Bristol, home of PTR.
It’s unfortunate that, when confronted with the prospect of yet more bad economic news, not only did the governor do his best impression of Alfred E. Newman, but he insulted the entrepreneurs who built those companies by accusing them of being disloyal to their workers.
So where do we get the money to pay for the enforcement of the new gun law and to pay the unemployment benefits of the firearms workers who will soon be without jobs? Well, estate tax revenues unexpectedly soared this year, pumping about $275 million more than anticipated into the state treasury and turning a deficit into a temporary surplus.
The windfall came on the heels of the deaths of a handful of wealthy Fairfield County residents, one of whom happened to be the grandmother of state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney.
Even the Malloy administration acknowledges they’re unlikely to hit the jackpot again soon, but there’s always hope. You know things are bad when the passing of a bunch of well-heeled taxpayers passes for good economic news.