MILLER: Rick Perry brings the big guns to Texas

Wooing Colt, Remington, Beretta, Stag Arms at NRA meeting

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As firearms manufacturers are run out of states where gun-grabbing governors are pushing through radical new laws, Gov. Rick Perry is all too happy to welcome them to the great state of Texas. The boom in new jobs and economic impact of a thriving industry in the Lone Star State shows how gun-control laws don’t make anyone safer yet hurt states’ economies. 

In an interview at the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association (NRA) on Friday, Mr. Perry explained that his primary pitch to 34 companies nationwide has been  an emotional one — that Texans would be happy to have these companies as neighbors. As an example, he cited Magpul, the firearm accessories manufacturer that is leaving Colorado after drastic new gun-control laws were enacted.

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“What’s kickin’ them out of Colorado is bad decisions by the Colorado legislature,” Mr. Perry told me of his discussions with the companies’ executives. “Do not get confused — Magpul wouldn’t move an inch if the legislature was friendly to them.” He described that new law and similar ones “rushed through” in New York, Maryland and Connecticut are viewed by manufacturers as careless and “underhanded.” He likened these statutes to Obamacare, about which then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi infamously said:“We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.” 

Mr. Perry has been talking to manufacturers for months, but he stepped up the personal lobbying efforts while executives were in Houston this week for the annual NRA meeting. The governor had face-to-face meetings with leadership from New York-based Remington, Maryland-based Beretta and Connecticut-based Colt and Stag Arms. Along with the emotional appeal, the governor sold them on the state’s low taxes, predictable regulations, fair courts and skilled labor force. 

I spoke with Beretta’s general counsel Jeffrey Reh at his company’s impressive wood-framed booth at the showcase in the convention center. Mr. Reh said that his company, which manufactures the M9, the military’s standard-issue sidearm, will announce its decision about moving after Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signs the bill into law, which is expected later this month. 

Over 70,000 of the NRA’s five million members were expected at the weekend meeting. Mr. Perry told an enthusiastic audience on Friday that he is a “proud, lifetime member” of the NRA. His personal use and appreciation for firearms give him a unique advantage over the other governors competing for the new business. For instance, he went shooting with executives from Remington Defense recently at Red’s Indoor Range in Austin. 

Mr. Perry was on hand to open the new headquarters of the firearms-parts manufacturer Shield Tactical in Shriner, Texas, which moved from anti-gun California. 

The industry likes what it sees in the Lone Star State. Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the manufacturers’ lobbying organization, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told me in Houston that “Under Gov Perry’s leadership, Texas is open for business. The governor welcomes firearms manufacturers — unlike in Connecticut, where the governor and [Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy] insult gun makers by accusing them of wanting to sell guns to criminals.”

Mr. Perry has his eye on several Connecticut companies. He wants Colt to move to his state because “their value is their name.” The original Texas rangers were outfitted with Colt revolvers. The governor told me that all current Texas rangers carry Colt 1911 pistols. 

Recently, Colt Competition, which makes AR-style rifles, moved from Connecticut to  Breckenridge, Texas. The parent company, Bold Ideas, warned it would move the company after Gov. Dannel Malloy rammed through legislation that specifically attacked their product and its manufacturing process. 

Mr. Perry said his appeal to every business — whether or not firearm — is the same: “If you want to live in a place that respects and appreciates what you do, lets you keep more of what you earn, has a quality of life that can compete with anyplace else in America, come to Texas.”


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