Connecticut has long, storied gun history

Connecticut has been a hub for weapons and ordnance production for generations. But the state's long relationship with guns has come under scrutiny since Adam Lanza massacred 20 elementary school students and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14.
State residents carry contradictory attitudes toward guns. As voters, they have backed Connecticut lawmakers adopting some of the tightest statewide gun restrictions in the nation.
Yet mourners at last Thursday's funeral for Benjamin Wheeler, 6, broke into applause at Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown when the Rev. Kathleen Adams-Shepherd said the killings had been carried out by an "enraged, sick young man with access to weapons that should never, ever be in a home."
The state's economy has long been strengthened by the arms industry. And a pro-gun culture flourishes across vast stretches of the state where hunting and fishing remain popular.
"We are known as the land of steady habits," says Walter Woodward, the state historian and a professor at the University of Connecticut. "Our steadiest habit has been our ability to embrace contradictions."
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., reflects Connecticut's complex relationship with firearms. The former state attorney general and U.S. attorney favors banning military-style assault rifles and large-capacity ammunition magazines for civilians at the same time that he works to sustain the state's multimillion-dollar arms manufacturing industry.
"We need to take real, strong serious action to stop gun violence," says Blumenthal, who favors stricter background checks and stronger enforcement of existing laws. "But my stand on preventing gun violence is in no way antithetical to responsible gun manufacturers."
Fast-moving rivers, iron ore and canny Yankee ingenuity enabled the state to forge a world-renowned firearms industry that began on the benches of artisans in the 1700s and continues today in state-of-the-art factories.
Early gunsmiths such as Eli Whitney transformed a decentralized industry into an economic powerhouse with water-driven production of interchangeable parts and assembly-line output that served as cornerstones of the American industrial revolution.
Samuel Colt's masterful marketing of his revolvers to the Texas Rangers in the 1840s helped put the Hartford-based gunsmith on the map with handguns that helped settle the West - and countless scores.
Eliphalet Remington Jr., who made his first rifle in Ilion, N.Y., in 1816, later opened a munitions factory in Bridgeport, where inventor John Browning contributed to the success of Remington Arms Co., before the firm began moving operations out of state in the 1970s.
Oliver Winchester, the New Haven-based gunsmith who engineered the repeating rifle in 1854, mass produced the lever-action weapon after the Civil War that enabled soldiers to seize and hold Indian territory and become known as the "Gun that Won the West."
Connecticut's economic reliance on defense contracts and the gun industry remains strong amid anti-firearms sentiment arising in the wake of the school shooting.
Connecticut's gun manufacturing industry directly employs 2,899 workers, earning $224 million a year and producing $967 million in weapons and ammunition, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an organization representing gun manufacturers.
Stewart M. Powell and Gary Martin are Hearst Newspapers staff writers.

November 1940. Children sledding, Jewett City, Connecticut

Men outside of a beer parlor in Jewett City, Connecticut