Gun Makers Go South

The firearms industry abandons blue states to avoid crushing regulations
By Kevin Stocklin
Kevin Stocklin
Kevin Stocklin
Kevin Stocklin is a writer, film producer, and former investment banker. He wrote and produced "We All Fall Down: The American Mortgage Crisis," a 2008 documentary on the collapse of the U.S. mortgage finance system.
July 4, 2022 Updated: July 14, 2022

Of all the businesses that are moving out of blue states, those in the gun industry are leading the pack.

Storied firearms manufacturers, some of which have operated in northern states for centuries, are now heading south. Founded in 1816, Remington, America’s oldest gun maker, announced in November that it was moving its headquarters to Georgia from New York.

In announcing the move, which will include a $100 million investment in a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and create 856 new jobs, Remington CEO Ken D’Arcy said, “The decision to locate in Georgia is very simple. The state of Georgia is not only a business-friendly state, it’s a firearms-friendly state.”

Also exiting New York is Dark Storm Industries, a gun manufacturer and retailer. It’ll be moving to Titusville, Florida, where the company has begun construction on a new manufacturing plant, bringing as many as 75 jobs to Florida.

“If you’re in the gun industry and you have the opportunity to move to Florida, you’re figuring it out, that’s where you want to be,” Dark Storm communications manager Kevin Elder told The Epoch Times.

When the company asked its employees if they would consider moving south, they didn’t hesitate, according to Elder.

“They were ready to go,” he said.

Dark Storm was founded to make firearms that are compliant with New York’s strict regulations, “but they just keep adding on more and more restrictions and more hoops to jump through,” according to Elder.

“Our clientele is very friendly, and our community, and we try to give back as much as we can,” he said. “We do a lot of charity work and local law enforcement loves us. But as far as the state itself, they don’t want that kind of stuff up here.”

Elder said Dark Storm’s problems in New York went beyond state regulations to also include banks and payments companies.

“We had to change credit card processors,” as well as the company’s bank because they were denying service to firearms companies, despite their strong creditworthiness, he said.

Tennessee has been another popular destination, attracting Smith & Wesson in September and Troy Industries in May, both from Massachusetts. Even before these moves were announced, Tennessee was already home to more than 20 firearms manufacturing companies.

Smith & Wesson’s move to Maryville, Tennessee, will include a $125 million investment and create 750 new jobs. Among the many reasons cited by CEO Mark Smith were new laws proposed by Massachusetts’s Democratic-led legislature banning the sale, possession, and manufacture of “assault weapons” and “large-capacity magazines” for civilian use. Smith noted that these products make up 60 percent of his company’s revenue.

Steve Troy, CEO of Troy Industries, also cited the “changing climate for firearms manufacturers” in Massachusetts, which “determined the need for our relocation to Tennessee.” Troy Industries will invest $7 million in Clarksville, Tennessee, creating 75 jobs.

Other firearms companies leaving blue states include Kimber Manufacturing, which left New York for Alabama; Winchester Centerfire, which left Illinois for Mississippi; Stag Arms, which left Connecticut for Wyoming; and Magpul Industries, which left Colorado for Wyoming and Texas.

The migration of the firearms industry is part of a wider movement by U.S. firms to escape high-tax, high-regulation states such as California, New York, Illinois, and New Jersey. But gun makers are in a particular hurry to exit these states in response to new laws and regulations seemingly intended to drive them out.

What all of the destination states have in common is that “they are respectful of the contributions that these businesses make to state economies,” National Shooting Sports Foundation Managing Director Mark Oliva told The Epoch Times.

“And they are respectful of the Second Amendment rights of consumers who are buying these firearms,” he said.

The firearms industry is a rapidly growing business.

“Our last economic impact report showed that we have grown 270 percent since 2008,” Oliva said. “And it’s an industry that continues to grow every year.”

About 20 million firearms were purchased in 2021, the second-highest year on record after 2020, when nearly 22 million were sold. Firearms owners are an increasingly diverse group, with women and minorities making up the fastest-growing percentage of new gun owners.

U.S. small-arms makers also supply police and the military. According to the 1933 Buy America Act, the federal government must buy from U.S. companies whenever possible. This has led many foreign arms makers, including Austria-based Glock, Italy-based Beretta, and Czech-based CZG to set up manufacturing in the United States. Beretta initially set up manufacturing in Maryland, but moved to Tennessee in 2016. Glock manufactures in Smyrna, Georgia, and CZG bought Colt Manufacturing in 2021, giving it production facilities in the United States and Canada.

However, efforts to put the gun industry out of business are continuing, both at the federal and state level. Last June, New York state passed a law making it easier for the state and its residents to sue gun makers for injuries caused by the guns they make. New Jersey and California are looking at similar legislation, and in February, grieving parents of elementary school children who were shot in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut successfully sued Remington, the manufacturer of the rifle used in that tragedy, on the grounds that it was marketed improperly under a Connecticut consumer protection law.

President Joe Biden has called for nationwide bans of semi-automatic rifles and magazines with more than 10 rounds, has spoken out against the use of 9-millimeter ammunition, and has demanded the repeal of the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects the gun industry from lawsuits regarding “criminal or unlawful misuse” of firearms. Biden claimed, falsely, in April 2021 that “the only industry in America, billion-dollar industry, that can’t be sued, exempt from being sued, are gun manufacturers.”

“President Biden stood on the campaign stage in one of the early debates and said that firearms manufacturers are the enemy—not an adversary, not an opponent, an enemy,” Oliva said. “That is compelling when our commander in chief views the industry that provides the means to protect our nation, protect our communities, and protect ourselves, as the enemy.”

Kevin Stocklin is a writer, film producer, and former investment banker. He wrote and produced "We All Fall Down: The American Mortgage Crisis," a 2008 documentary on the collapse of the U.S. mortgage finance system.