Locked, Loaded and Ready to Relocate

Convincing a major industrial manufacturer with long historic roots in a community to pack up and leave usually is a tough sell. More often than not, the process takes years to come to fruition as headquarters manufacturing sites gradually are supplanted by satellite locations and a variety of factors bring about a final decision to make the big move.

It takes something really extraordinary to put an entire industry into play, but that’s what may be happening to the guns and ammo sector in the U.S.

The Newtown, CT school massacre moved gun safety legislation front and center on the national and state levels. Proposed new gun-control measures, including universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and limits on high-capacity magazines are moving towards key votes in Congress.

Meanwhile, several states already have acted to tighten their gun control laws. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed through a measure in January requiring registration of an estimated one million guns already in circulation. Other provisions in the NY package require five-year renewals of handgun licenses statewide; direct mental health professionals to notify authorities of patients deemed likely to seriously hurt themselves or others; and require federal background checks for private gun sales in New York.

New York’s new law–the first new gun restrictions in the nation following the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown–also lowers the capacity limit of weapons magazines from 10 rounds to seven. In Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper bucked a strong tradition of gun ownership in the state and succeeded in enacting a landmark new law expanding background checks on gun purchases and limiting the size of ammunition clips. Several other states are moving forward with new gun restrictions, including New Jersey, Illinois and Connecticut.

Predictably, the National Rifle Association and its allies are mounting legal challenges to the new restrictions. This week, the NRA joined the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, other sportsmen’s groups, firearms businesses and individual gun owners in a lawsuit that aims to overturn New York’s law, citing the second and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

As the national debate heats up over new gun-control legislation, some weapons manufacturers are threatening to leave inhospitable states for less-regulated locations.

Colt Manufacturing President and CEO Dennis Veilleux told Fox News that Connecticut legislators’ proposals to enact ammunition restrictions, expand an assault weapons ban, curtail bulk purchases of handguns and create a new gun offender registry risk putting Colt and its 700 employees “in the crosshairs.”

Colt has called Connecticut home for over 175 years. Veilleux made it clear the gun maker is closely watching state legislative activity, especially Gov. Dan Malloy’s promise to ban both the purchase and sale of AR-15 rifles–one of Colt’s key products. Last week, Colt sent 400 of its employees to Connecticut’s state Capitol to personally lobby against new gun-control legislation. Meanwhile, a Malloy spokesman has stated that the governor does not want gun manufacturers to flee the state. In Colt’s case, it would mean a loss of $1.7 billion for the state’s economy

In Colorado, following the passage of Gov. Hickenlooper’s bill banning the sale of magazines capable of holding more than 15 rounds, munitions magazine manufacturer Magpul announced it will shut down its operations in the state .

As in any relocation paradigm, one community’s loss is another’s gain. In Montana, they ‘re moving quickly to put out the welcome mat for gun and ammunition manufacturers from across the country. In fact, local economic development agencies are openly targeting weapons producers.

The details of this effort were reported this week by Jeremy Vannatta, Director of Outreach, Recruitment and Marketing for the Big Sky Economic Development Authority (EDA), during a joint meeting of the Executive Committees for the EDA and its sister organization, the Big Sky Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

Vannatta said that a committee has been formed and they have compiled a list of some 300 prospective companies. Sixteen of those companies already have connections to the state and are considered prime candidates.

“We do have an industry here already,” Vannatta told the Big Sky Business Journal. There are ten gun manufacturers in the state, he said, as well as companies which manufacture components for guns manufactured by other companies.