Under the Gun: Businesses Pressured, Punished in States Passing Tough Gun Regulations

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States have been passing tougher gun laws with the hopes of preventing another Newtown. But lawmakers are facing the possibility that their efforts to save lives may be killing local businesses and jobs.

In early April, Connecticut lawmakers passed new gun-control regulations that are among the strictest in the nation. For the most part, the new rules don’t prevent local factories from producing guns and ammunition like they have for decades. And yet several weapons manufacturers are actively exploring options for relocating to a new state. A Hartford Courant article explained why:

The trouble is not the direct effects of the ban — they’re allowed to continue manufacturing, and each firm will lose a few percentage points of their sales — but rather, the companies’ standing in an industry where customers famously punish certain brands.

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Connecticut weapons manufacturing firms have been flooded with emails from gun enthusiasts, like this one sent to Stag Arms, a New Britain-based company that produces rifles: “I’ve narrowed down my purchase of an AR-15 to a few companies and yours was one of them until you decided to stay in that communist state.”

The Courant lists three Connecticut weapons firms that are looking into moving operations—including roughly 300 jobs—to Arkansas, Kansas, Texas, or another more gun-friendly state. Throughout early 2013, these and other states “claiming to be friendly to the Second Amendment,” in the words of a USA Today story, have been offering tax breaks and abundant cheap labor to woo weapons manufacturers away from states that have passed or are considering tougher gun restrictions.

Businesses in Maryland are facing pressures similar to those in Connecticut. An Eastern Shore arms manufacturer named LWRC has been asked by officials in states such as Nebraska, Mississippi, Nevada, and Texas to relocate, with tax incentives waived as an enticement, according to the Baltimore Sun. Executives at LWRC seem most motivated to move not by the financial incentives, but due to fear of offending the gun-buying public. “The rest of the country wouldn’t forgive us for staying,” LWRC executive vice president Darren Mellors told the Sun. “It’s a brand issue.”

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Colorado-based Magpul Industries, a manufacturer of firearms accessories and ammunition magazines, announced that it would have “no choice” but to move operations to Alaska, Alabama, West Virginia, or another gun-friendly state due to new firearms restrictions in Colorado, the Associated Press reported.

Second Amendment defenders have also called for a boycott of hunting in Colorado as a response to the state’s passing of three gun-control bills. Out-of-state hunters normally spend millions annually during trips to Colorado. The state’s Parks and Wildlife division collected $38 million in elk and deer licenses from nonresidents in 2012, for example. Guides, outfitters, hotels, and other businesses related to hunting tourism could be affected by a large boycott. In a Denver Post story, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Randy Hampton called the boycott “unfortunate” in that it “catches small businesses and small communities in the cross hairs of the issue.”

Likewise, Sara Davis, a customer service representative for Connecticut’s Ammunition Storage Components, said that it’s unfair for people to stop doing business with the company because of where it’s located. “The company is being punished for what the government has done,” Davis said to the Courant.

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Pro-gun groups, meanwhile, can be relied upon to take whatever steps they feel are necessary to defend their rights — and themselves.