LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Wilson Combat, an Arkansas-based maker of custom firearms, is joining other small manufacturers across the county in adopting no sale policies to law-enforcement agencies in states that adopt strict laws on gun ownership.
At least one other Arkansas firearm-maker is part of the no-sale movement while others are neutral or say direct political pressure is the best way to stop laws they believe restrict citizens’ Second Amendment rights.
“Wilson Combat will in no way support the government of these states or their anti-gun agenda that only limits the rights of law-abiding citizens,” Ryan Wilson, the company’s vice president, said in a release. The company said it will continue to supply products or services that are legally allowed to nongovernment-affiliated citizens in the no-sale states.
Wilson Combat is a maker of high-end guns, offering custom model 1911 pistols, AR-15-style rifles, tactical shotguns, magazines and other shooting gear. The privately held company, formed in 1977, is headquartered in Berryville in Carroll County and employs 90 people.
More than 110 specialty manufacturers have opted to stop selling firearms and other gear to law enforcement in states and cities with strict firearms-control laws. Known as the Firearms Equality Movement, the goal is to limit law enforcement to the same armaments available legally to the average citizen they police.
Large-scale law-enforcement suppliers including Glock, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, and Sig Sauer have not joined the movement. None of the companies answered requests for comment.
The no-sale campaign comes as the nation debates whether to ban military-style semiautomatic rifles, as well as laws that reduce the capacity of magazines.
Wilson Combat began its no-sale policy in late February, and it covers law enforcement and state agencies in California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. The policy also applies to officers and state employees buying as individuals.
In response to an e-mail request, company President and Chief Executive Bill Wilson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette he didn’t have time to for an interview because gun bans and restrictions are fueling the most dramatic buying frenzy the firearms industry has ever seen.
Wilson declined to say how much business his company did in the no-sale states but in an e-mail said the movement is a way to influence law enforcement, which has substantial political clout. “When major law enforcement agencies and organizations start to publicly stand up for the Second Amendment, then I’m sure the gun industry will begin to reconsider our position,” he wrote.
The no-sale push began in early February to counter legislation signed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that tightens the definition of semiautomatic, military style weapons that the state considers unlawful to possess and that limits magazine capacity to seven rounds.
John Grebert, executive director of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police Inc., said that if the no-sale movement continues to spread, it could become a safety issue for officers.
“It’s troubling to us,” he said.
“Individual police officers have nothing to do with this new legislation,” Grebert said. “They’re not the ones anyone should be blaming.”
Not all gun-makers in Arkansas have adopted the no sale policy.
Craig Gholson, president and chief executive officer of Nighthawk Custom, also based in Berryville, said his company is fighting restrictive gun laws by donating money to the Institute for Legislative Action, the lobbying arm of The National Rifle Association.
“You’re not going to scare politicians like that,” he said about the no-sale movement. Instead, he said, a strong lobbying effort is the best way to protect Second Amendment freedoms.
Max Rodriguez, senior vice president at Van Buren based-Knesek Group, said the company’s sister organization, THOR Global Defense Group, builds and sells AR-15-style rifles and small arms.
In an e-mail, Rodriguez said THOR had not imposed any restrictions on sales to state or government agencies. He said while he understands the reason behind the movement, those using the equipment should not be punished for the shortcomings of their state’s legislation.
Chris Hettman, owner of NFA Gear LLC in Beebe, said he supports the Firearms Equality Movement.
He said NFA Gear’s sales in Arkansas, Arizona and a good deal of Texas are mostly unrestricted as long as the buyer can legally purchase the products. In other states, he limits the company’s sales to law-enforcement sales to match what citizens can purchase.
“It’s what’s legal and that’s what I need to sell,” Hettman said. “It’s just what Joe Blow on the street has.”
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.