Newtown did not change everything in Connecticut public life. The slaughter of 26 innocents at the Sandy Hook School has not caused Democratic and Working Families Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to shed his expensive addiction to corporate welfare. Last week, Malloy's administration announced that it will provide at least $22 million to Bass Pro Shops for a 150,000-square-foot store in Bridgeport.
Bass Pro is one of the nation's most prominent purveyors of guns. It sells the semi-automatic rifles, known as assault weapons, that Adam Lanza used on Dec. 14 to kill 20 children and six adults. Those guns are now illegal in Connecticut, but Bass Pro sells them in stores around the country. It also sells online and in stores the high-capacity ammunition magazines that are also illegal in Connecticut.
When President Barack Obama signed 23 executive orders regulating guns in January, Malloy hailed the action. He declared that in December, "there was one question on the minds of people across Connecticut and around the nation: How do we make sure that this never happens again?" The answer we seek cannot be the one Malloy has provided. Unlike him, we do not want to go into business with sellers of these and other weapons.
Malloy is just beginning heaping his largesse on Bass Pro. The first round of public funds comes from what looks like a political arm of his administration, Connecticut Innovations, known as CI. That's the agency that hired the wife of Democratic U.S. Rep. John Larson last year for an executive assistant's job with, to put it kindly, the thinnest of qualifications.
Now CI is doing more of Malloy's dirty work. The governor is a hostage to the Democratic political machine in Bridgeport that delivered his narrow margin of victory in 2010. Though gun violence continues to rip the social fabric of bloody Bridgeport, the city's leaders want economic development projects at any price, even if it comes with the sale of more guns within its borders as it initiates gun buybacks.
Just before the Newtown killings, Malloy tried to lure an assault weapons manufacturer into the state. His conversion to the ban was born of those horrifying events on that Friday morning. The impact on Malloy's new attitude toward guns has not lasted eight months. It will get worse. The state's Department of Economic and Community Development, the Connecticut Post reported last week, is also negotiating a package of taxpayer goodies with Bass Pro. Expect the hapless commissioner, Catherine Smith, to give the retailer whatever it wants.
The millions for a gun seller is also bad economic policy. Several studies show that Bass Pro stores as anchors for retails centers often fail. The privately owned company is worth billions. It has a pattern of taking hundreds of millions from taxpayers with dubious long-term economic returns.
This is absurd for Connecticut. The legislature banned assault weapons and certain ammunition clips this spring. One result has been high-paying manufacturing jobs are leaving the state. At the same time, taxpayers will hand over millions to a company that sells the weapons the state has banned to create low-paying retail jobs. It makes no sense.
This is all about politics and Malloy's dreary standing with the public. The state's economy continues to decline, so any activity is a plus in the governor's cynical worldview. With his decency deficit, insulting the memory of the innocent dead is no reason for Malloy not to lard other people's money on a gun seller.
This not the first time raw politics has been injected into the Newtown killings. U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy have used the victims to raise campaign contributions. Murphy last week appealed for funds with an attack on the National Rifle Association. You can bet he and Blumenthal will say nothing of Malloy's costly alliance with a major gun seller.
The people know better. Every time a victim's surviving loved ones pay a tax in Connecticut, Malloy forces them to underwrite the proliferation of the weapons they despise. That's his legacy on guns.
Kevin Rennie is a lawyer and a former Republican state legislator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.