- The Washington Times - Monday, March 4, 2013

In a protest against new gun laws, more than 100 firearms dealers say they will stop selling guns to government and law enforcement officials in New York and other states unless those same firearms are also available to average citizens.

It’s part of a backlash from the industry to new gun controls, and it follows major firearms companies, such as Beretta and Magpul, that have threatened to bolt Maryland and Colorado, respectively, if those states enact legislation to restrict military-style semiautomatic weapons or high-capacity ammunition magazines.

In early February, Texas-based LaRue Tactical changed its policy to “limit all sales to what law-abiding citizens residing in their districts can purchase or possess” because it did not want to risk triggering lawsuits with new gun laws either passed or pending.

“If you write the law, you live under the law, no special category of people just because you’re a government employee,” said Sean Sorrentino, a gun-rights advocate who keeps a tally at ncgunblog.com of companies that are adopting those kinds of policies.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association, said companies are free to independently decide the customers and markets they want to serve, but agreeing with others to boycott certain customers or markets raises serious legal questions concerning antitrust laws and may be illegal.

“Due to these antitrust concerns, NSSF is unable to promote this protest,” the group said. “We are also concerned that members of law enforcement are not made less safe due to the ill-advised decisions of antigun politicians.”

Gun owners tend to be fiercely loyal and the firearm companies are responsive to their clients. Owners launched a boycott of Smith & Wesson after the company signed an agreement with the Clinton administration voluntarily limiting some sales.

This year, companies are being proactive in defending their clients’ firearms rights — and their own markets.

New York has become a chief target after Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January signed the strictest gun control measures of any state in the country, including a beefed-up ban on so-called assault weapons and a prohibition on gun magazines that hold more than seven bullets — a law praised by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a major gun control advocate, as protecting the Second Amendment while making the state’s residents safer.

Olympic Arms Inc. subsequently followed up with a policy specifically in regard to New York, saying that the state’s new gun controls have “caused a division of the people into classes.”

Going beyond mere sales policies, Magpul and Berretta have threatened to simply pack up and move because of proposed laws.

Richard Fitzpatrick, founder and president of Magpul, announced that the company would relocate if a Colorado bill banning ammunition magazines holding more than 15 rounds, or what he called “standard-capacity magazines,” becomes law.

Maryland-based Beretta, meanwhile, has been courted by multiple states after the company expressed dissatisfaction with that state’s push to pass gun controls, including bans on so-called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

At least one business — Shield Tactical — isn’t waiting. The company announced on its Facebook page last month the relocation of its retail division from California to Texas, though it did say in the announcement it plans to keep its training division in California “until the legislature outlaws everything.”