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Connecticut firearms maker leaving for South Carolina, citing gun law

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - A firearms manufacturer is leaving Connecticut for the gun-friendly state of South Carolina to avoid the tough gun-control law passed in the wake of the Newtown school shooting that killed 20 first-graders and six adults last December.

PTR Industries, a maker of military-style rifles, picked South Carolina over Texas and four other states, lured by its pro-Second Amendment politics, lower costs and coastal location, economic development officials said on Thursday.

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

The Connecticut law, one of the toughest gun-control measures in the United States, bars high-capacity ammunition magazines of the kind used in the Newtown shooting and adds to the firearms covered by the state's assault-weapons ban.

South Carolina's Senate, on the other hand, passed a resolution this spring that encourages gun manufacturers to come to the state.

PTR, which stands for Precision Target Rifles, is the first Connecticut firearms company to announce it is leaving. Others have threatened to move out of state.

Stag Arms, which also makes military-style rifles, has narrowed its list to South Carolina and Texas as final contenders for relocation, said Brad Lofton, president and chief executive officer of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation.

South Carolina economic development officials are also in talks with several Connecticut ammunition manufacturers, he said.

"We don't have a gun-manufacturing strategy per se, but metalworking and precision metalworking is one of our target industries," said Jeff McKay, executive director of the North Eastern Strategic Alliance, a regional economic development organization that represents nine South Carolina counties.

PTR's relocation to a business park near Myrtle Beach will be announced at a formal ceremony with Governor Nikki Haley on Monday, and the gun maker hopes to move its operation by year's end, McNamara said.

The company will bring 24 employees to South Carolina and must expand to 140 employees after three years in the state, officials said.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Eric Walsh)

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