Smith & Wesson 1911 gun factory manufacturing
(AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
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By Joe Bartozzi

A recent column in The Atlantic on the decline and despair of New Haven, Conn., caught my attention. It’s an area that many of those associated with the firearm industry are at least aware of. For me, it’s a little closer to home. It’s where my family’s roots run deep – both in the city and in the firearm industry.

The author, Nicholas Dawidoff, lamented the decline of the city and pined for the days when Winchester Repeating Arms Company had a solid presence there. That caught my eye. It was curious to me that a left-of-center publication made the tacit admission that a firearm manufacturer was a pillar that held the city up. When it was gone, the city fell into decay.

It was even more curious, then, when The Trace, the anti-gun mouthpiece of billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety gun control group, echoed the author’s understated findings.

Solid manufacturing jobs were good for New Haven. Dawidoff spoke glowingly of the immigrant and African American heritage that comprised the community and filled the factories. It was a working-class community. It had its struggles, but it was home and it was safe.

“Nobody locked their doors,” Dawidoff wrote.

Roots

I’m very familiar with New Haven then. My grandfather was one of those factory workers. He was among those who found pride in his work and in his community. He retired from Winchester Repeating Arms Company in 1959, the year I was born.

He spent 35 years working in that factory. This was the same Winchester factory that was part of the arsenal for democracy during WWII and made most of the M-1 Garands for American troops fighting in Europe and the Pacific. I remember him staying in touch with his fellow factory workers in bowling leagues. He was never seen without his Model 94 tie tack. My grandfather collected his service pins marking his years at Winchester, which I am proud to say I still have.

My professional journey in the firearm industry can be largely credited to Winchester. I worked at a small factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut, that provided stamped metal components to Winchester and Sturm, Ruger and Co. Occasionally, my job would require me to visit the factory where my grandfather worked.

Women making Browning machine guns during WW1 at the Winchester Repeating Arms Co., New Haven, Conn. (Shutterstock)

Walking into that old factory where my grandfather worked for so long was a very moving thing for me. We never talked about his work history when I was a kid, but it wasn’t lost on me that I was likely the only one in my family to see, hear (and smell) what he experienced in that 100-year-old wooden-floored factory. For some reason it created a direct connection to him – even though he was already deceased by this time. It was through this experience, both personal and professional, that lead me to embrace the industry.

I accepted a position at Mossberg in July of 1986, where I worked until I joined NSSF four years ago.

In the mid-80’s I would head down Winchester Avenue to meet with the Engineering and Quality folks at their factory without concern. It seems as though everyone in the Hill Section of New Haven either worked at Winchester or was related to or knew someone who did. That factory was a great source of pride to that community as I recall: an iconic American brand, an iconic logo, with proud employees and retirees like my grandfather.

I also think about the Ruger factory, the Marlin factory, Winchester factory, Remington’s ammunition factory, etc., that put Connecticut on the map as the leader in innovation. None of these were very far from where Eli Whitney started the mass-production techniques that revolutionized industry. 

Scapegoating an Industry

But things changed. The issues of poverty and crime are complicated. There are lots of reasons why New Haven isn’t what it once was, but it can’t be discounted that the city was once the home of a manufacturing giant that produced quality products and employed thousands in a community that thrived. How truly sad it is that so much of that manufacturing has been chased away from my state.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, center, signs legislation at the Capitol in Hartford, Conn., Thursday, April 4, 2013, that includes new restrictions on weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines. The legislation adds more than 100 firearms to the state’s assault weapons ban, and sets eligibility rules for buying ammunition. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Political leaders squandered the investments manufacturing made in the state. Governors looking to score cheap political points deflected blame for their own failing policies to confront crime and instead mollified gun control special interests.

The firearm manufacturers that called Connecticut home gradually came to believe that Connecticut didn’t value their contributions. Some expanded production to other states, like Mossberg. Some manufacturers folded. Some, like Colt, remain for now.

Colt factory, Hartford, Connecticut (Lowe, Jet, creator, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

This is an industry that carries a $70.52 billion economic impact, supporting nearly 376,000 jobs. In Connecticut, that’s still $1.4 billion and 5,200 jobs. Firearm sales this year are the third strongest on record, at over 16.4 million.

Some states see the value in industry – especially the firearm industry. Georgia, Tennessee, Wyoming and Arkansas are among the states vying to attract firearm manufacturers within their borders. Meanwhile, Connecticut shuns the industry that brought prosperity, good jobs to hard-working families, and pride in their communities.

Beretta factory
Beretta factory in Gallatin, Tennessee (Dan Z. for TTAG)

The results, unfortunately, are what The Atlantic’s Dawidoff sees in New Haven today. Sadly, this great city isn’t what it once was. I see an acknowledgement from some unlikely sources that the firearm industry was the glue that held that city together…in a community that never used to lock its doors.

Joe Bartozzi is the President and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation

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38 COMMENTS

  1. Liberal politicians do not care about the history, the loss of these factories, the loss of revenues, or the loss of jobs because it is their dearest desire to run all of them out of their state and eventually out of business. The enactment of the PLCAA was the end of their first main effort. Now the effort is on eliminating “assault weapons,” a bread and butter product for a number of companies. Then it is large capacity standard mags. Microstamping to end the production of semiauto handguns. The beat goes on. “The individual must be sacrificed for the benefit of the whole.”

    • I agree with all you said, except I might offer this edit: ““The individual must be sacrificed to control the whole.” Makes it more accurate.

  2. This same thing can be said for countless Democrap run cities across the country. Yet, how many unions still claim that they are for the working man?

    • Well any workers that would have had jobs for years working the XL pipeline would definitely agree… But their unions don’t…

  3. These same politicians that detest and shun the firearms industry which provides skilled and semi-skilled labor with quality paying jobs & benefits will embrace casinos and sports stadiums which pay minimum wage temp work with little or no benefits and nearly no tax revenues except sales tax.

    Curious priorities to say the least.

  4. Born and schooled in New Haven.
    It’s a shithole to be sure.
    You got wealthy people living just outside and working at Yale or some bank and the rest is all ghetto. I rode a bike everywhere and each commute was a gauntlet dodging teetering addicts, yoots grabbing for my handlebars, ducking rocks, bottles and anything else being thrown at you. Everybody I knew got mugged at least once. Three ended up killed for their pocket change. Townies carry cash on hand for the sole purpose of paying their expected robber.

    Of course the transient Yalies see nothing wrong with any of it. At first it’s interesting to them like a visit to an exotic zoo. Then it gets a little scary so it becomes “interesting.” A phenomenon you find in lots of urban dwelling hipsters is to interpret the pointless risks of their living space as some sort of badge of honor. Affluent white street-cred of a sort. After this phase it starts to be seen as a problem but a problem that’s caused by all you racists. The final stage is they move away but continue to support all the bad policies that make all cities suck for the people who don’t have the privilege to leave.

    Cities are terrible. College towns are terrible. The two combined are a guaranteed disaster.

    • Are there no men in these areas to stand up to the muggers? If I’d been mugged and survived I would have made it my mission in life to right the wrong.

      • “Are there no men in these areas to stand up to the muggers?”

        The thugs don’t need a ‘permit’ to carry, while the good people are unable to get such ‘permission’.

        The thugs see the odds heavily in their favor, and behave accordingly. Besides, genuine risks are there for those gallant enough to try. So, literally, is it worth your life to confront the thuggery, or is the wise thing to do is simply avoid it?

        TL;DR, nice idea, until it’s your neck on the line… 🙁

        • We can get permission. It took me 8 months and about $400 in fees and mandatory classes.

          Sometime in early 2000’s, tired of the constant assaults and muggings, the sizeable Jewish community there began a neighborhood watch of sorts complete with patrols. When word got out they were getting carry permits the lefts trademark antisemitism went full blast. It was a delight to witness. Very easy to see who was winning the oppression olympics in that city.

    • But the smart kids told us we no longer need manufacturing jobs because we have a service economy now.

      They also told us increasing illegal immigration makes us wealthier and safer. New Haven should work out a deal with Texas for dibs on as many illegals as possible. Problem solved.

  5. …and when Union autoworker jobs moved out of the Detroit manufacturing hub, the larger metro area turned into a Third World Country. Huge fucking surprise, right?…Then the taxpayers left behind said “eff you and your unsustainable welfare shit” and moved away…huge fucking surprise, right?
    Anyone see a pattern developing?….Buehler?….Bueller?

    • …let me amend that to ” when competition made the Union jobs uncompetitive, the Union jobs moved out of Detroit ”
      ….and this is from a retired Union electrician who WASN’T paid some ridiculous hourly wage to install lugnuts on your mother’s Impala; I actually vascillatted between freezing and cooking my ass off doing line work and traffic/ lighting control. And pretty much enjoyed all 41 years of it.

  6. Oh man you’ll never get the rust belt back. My dad was a bomb inspector at Joliet Arsenal during WW 2. Talk about saving democracy…now the whole effing state of DIM ILLannoy wants to destroy the gun industry. Including the traitorous Springfield Armory & Rock River Arms. NO carve out for them(he he). The brokest state wants no gun industry!

    • “My dad was a bomb inspector at Joliet Arsenal during WW 2.”

      The image of the ‘Looney Tunes’ cartoon bomb inspector whacking a bomb pointing up with a hammer came to mind. And when the bomb didn’t go *Boom*, slapped a sticker on it that said “Dud”. Next!

      Anyone remember that one? 🙂

      • Well they did have explosions & death at Joliet Arsenal. My dad tried to join the military but was rejected due to age & medical problems. Bugs would be proud of him🙄🤪

  7. You can’t have both. You can destroy your states big manufacturing industry. And then get sad about not having the tax and employment benefits.
    The Left has always been dangerous to workers and to private industry.

    • edit
      You can’t have both. You can’t destroy your states big manufacturing industry. And then get sad about not having the tax and employment benefits.
      The Left has always been dangerous to workers and to private industry. And they will always destroy what they like, and don’t like. Usually at the same time.

      • I was getting constipated until I downloaded the When To Take A Shit, app.
        Thank you Google.
        Fck the Rogue I need my apps.

        • big(smile)
          btw
          Some states you can’t save. They have fallen. They have to live with the consequences of the actions they took.

  8. When I ran the Save Winchester campaign in 2006 to try and keep USRAC open in New Haven it was a joint project supposedly supported by the City of New Haven, but when I arrived at the factory none other than the Mayor himself was outside the gates with the protestors looking to make sure it was shutdown. He also leaked that we had a public company coming to look at the operation, which infuriated the potential buyer as they now has a public disclosure issue. It killed the deal right there and then. Why? He was running for Governor and thought he could have his cake and eat it too. Hire people to help, give us an impossible timeline (90 days), take credit for anything positive, but undercut us and protest publicly against the company. It was very sad as we heard so many stories of families born from workplace meetings, the time whole east coast went dark except for New Haven because of Winchester’s power plant, and so much more, but it is all gone now, demolished to serve political agendas.

  9. When are the masses going to wake up and realize what may be the most important truth that society has ever faced?

    And what is that truth? Answer: most governments derive sadistic pleasure in wrecking society as much as possible and causing as much chaos and suffering as possible, all while consolidating as much power and wealth as possible.

    Failures such as New Haven, Connecticut are not the result of incompetence nor misguided policies. Rather, they are intentional.

    • uncommon_sense:
      “When are the masses going to wake up and realize what may be the most important truth that society has ever faced?”
      The answer is: NEVER. It is organized labor, which has driven industry away from the so-called “Rust Belt.” They are their own worst enemy. They don’t want to work, and they will go out of their way to make sure nobody else works either and to protect the slackers from discipline by the management. And… they are proud of it. The biggest joke of all is when they go on strike and carry signs around in a picket line emblazoned with the slogan, “ON STRIKE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE.” Most of them would not recognize social justice, if it bit them on the ass.
      I’m from the Detroit area, and it makes me sick.

      • TTAG Shadow,

        Perhaps Lord Acton captured the idea long ago in an even more accurate and succinct statement:

        “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

        Whether that power is in the hands of a head of state or simply the head of a labor union (or anywhere in between), it sure seems to go sour in very short order.

        • Winchester ended up moving to Japan. And nothing new has come out of that gun company. But here in the United States, look at all of the innovation. That has come from American gun designers and accessory providers.

      • You only have to look at Pennsylvania voting for Biden and killing the Golden Goose of fracking. Fracking was making PA a global player and they just shot themselves in the head. The stupidity is blinding.

    • They aren’t sadistic — they just don’t care. They’ll do just enough to keep most of their constituents voting for them, but that’s their limit. If they solved the problems, their constituents wouldn’t need them, and they’d have to get real jobs.

      • Anymouse,

        While a large number of politicians, bureaucrats, and government employees certainly don’t care about the citizenry, far too many government politicians, bureaucrats, and government employees actually get-off on causing grief, pain, and suffering to citizens. I have seen it first hand. And people who I trust implicitly have seen it first hand.

        If you still are not convinced, a recent study (I wish I could cite the actual study) reports that about 33% of young men would rape a woman if they knew that they could get away with it. Raping a woman goes way beyond $exual gratification–it is a crime of domination and violence. In other words, it is a crime where the criminal enjoys the domination and violence.

        That alone should make it clear that a very large percentage of our population gets-off on causing other people to suffer. Give such a person a government title and now he/she not only thinks that he/she can get away with torturing another person, he/she actually believes that their government title entitles them to screw-over the citizenry.

        Like I said earlier, stop ascribing the pain and suffering (which governments cause) solely to apathy or incompetence.

    • Yeah, I don’t understand how the petroleum industry is okay with that. And being one of the largest industries in existence–which means that they have obscene piles of cash available–the petroleum industry is most certainly in a position to “persuade” fedzilla to back away from such a notion. Will that happen? We are so far into clown world at this point I cannot begin to predict how the petroleum industry will respond.

      • u_s,
        That industry primarily donates to conservatives. I’m surprised more people haven’t talked about this. It’s one of the obvious reasons they’re destroying the industry. Who does the firearm industry support? Who does the “green energy” industry support? Notice a trend?

        • Well, that certainly makes sense. One thing is for certain: Democrats are all-in when it comes to rewarding their political allies and punishing their political opponents.

  10. I was among many that celebrated the relocation of Kahr Arms from NY to the Pocono region of PA. Our local PA representative was there, welcoming new decent paying skilled jobs coming into the area. Much better jobs than the ones requiring you to say, “Do you want fries with that?” Some politicians are dumber than a bag of hammers when it comes to improving their district’s economy.

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