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Some blame New York gun law for Rochester gun company’s move to South Carolina

ALBANY – Gun-rights advocates blamed Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and lawmakers for a second firearms company deciding to move out of New York since enactment of the SAFE Act, but gun-control groups dismissed their criticism.

American Tactical Imports, a Rochester company that makes and imports firearms and ammunition, announced this week it will move to South Carolina. The company said it will start the re-location effort next month.

That state’s governor has boasted about the company’s decision. The company said it will bring or create 117 jobs in South Carolina.

The company becomes the second firearms company to announce plans to leave the state since the SAFE Act was signed into law. In July, Kahr Arms, based in Rockland County, announced the move of its headquarters to Pennsylvania, citing the SAFE Act as the principal reason.

“Why would you stay here? If you can get closer to the bulk of where your market is now going to be, why wouldn’t you move?’’ said Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association.

The SAFE Act bans the sale in New York of most of ATI’s product line, King said.

“ATI believes it is imperative that a firearms importer and manufacturer do business within a state that is friendly to the second amendment rights of the people,’’ the company said.

But gun-control advocates today dismissed the connections between the company’s decision and the January passage of the SAFE Act – which cracks down on the sale of assault-style weapons and will begin next year tracking sales of ammunition in the state.

“I think they are using the New York SAFE Act as a scapegoat,’’ said Leah Gunn Barrett, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, which pushed for passage of the law and recently honored Cuomo at a Manhattan dinner.

She said the law seeks to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people, felons and drug dealers and limits the sales of assault-style weapons. “I don’t see how that’s harming anyone’s business,’’ she said. Businesses move for a variety of reasons, Barrett said. “Perhaps the reason for going to South Carolina is lower taxes. Who knows? But putting it on the SAFE Act is disingenuous,’’ she said.

The Buffalo News in September reported that other states are courting gunmakers. One company said some two dozen states have reached out trying to get it to move from New York. Additionally, the story reported gunmakers are under pressure from consumers in other states who regularly tell them they will no longer do business with a gun manufacturer based in New York.

A Tennessee newspaper earlier this summer reported that Remington Arms, located in Herkimer County and one of the oldest and biggest gun manufacturers in the state, was scouting locations in the Nashville area. While local politicians in the Mohawk River community believe Remington has invested too much money in its plant to move, sources with knowledge of the company say executives have voiced concerns that pressure from gun consumers against New York-based firearms firms could force them to rethink efforts to stay in New York if revenues drop as a result of the SAFE Act.

“Today’s announcement is another testament that South Carolina is a destination for job-creating investments. We celebrate American Tactical Import’s decision to invest $2.7 million and create 117 new jobs in Dorchester County,’’ South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said this week.

Besides wanting to be in a state the company called more gun-friendly, officials said the decision was also shaped by a desire to be near a major shipping port such as Charleston. The company imports many of its products from Germany, King said. The company also received financial incentives to make the move, though the exact amount was not immediately available.

A Cuomo administration spokesman did not have an immediate comment.