New gun laws could mean economic woes for booming gun industry

As lawmakers consider a range of new restrictions on guns, the gun industry is growing nervous that its exceptional success during the “Great Recession” could be coming to an end.

In the past four years, the gun industry has experienced an unprecedented level of growth, providing a rare boost to the ailing economy.

But now, with states like New York and Colorado passing some of the strictest gun laws in decades — and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid poised to bring a sweeping new gun control measure to the Senate floor — worries are growing about the widespread impact such gun laws could have on business.

The gun industry employs approximately 220,000 highly skilled workers, according to a recent report released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Over the past two years, while the rest of the country faced unemployment rates above 8 percent, the gun industry added more than 37,000 new jobs, with average salary of $47,000.

The report states that in 2012 alone, the industry paid $5.1 billion in federal taxes and was responsible for $33.6 billion in economic activity.

Demand for new guns is high. FBI background checks for new guns through America’s 130,000 licensed firearm dealers have doubled since 2006, but with politicians pushing for various bans on firearms and magazines, the era of growth in the gun industry may be coming to an end.

“It’s unfortunate. We don’t want to lay anyone off, but there is always the potential of layoffs,” said Joseph H. Bartozzi, CEO of shotgun and rifle manufacturer Mossberg & Sons.

Most concerning to gun companies is the potential reinstatement a version of the 1994 assault weapons ban, which could be passed as an amendment to the bill that Reid will likely present in April.

“If there were a federal ban on modern sporting rifles, which are mislabeled ‘assault weapons,’ it would mean a ban on the most popular semi-automatic rifle in the US,” Mike Bazinet, public affairs director at the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told The Daily Caller.

For Bartozzi, it is the passage of legislation at the state level — not just the federal level — that has him worried.

“We just invested $4 million dollars in new equipment and hired dozens of people to develop a product line that would be completely wiped out by the proposed Connecticut laws,” he said.

In Connecticut — where Colt, Strum & Ruger Company and Mossberg & Sons are headquartered — legislators are considering a variety of measures to curb gun violence, including a manufacturing exemption, which would allow guns to be manufactured but not sold in-state.

“What kind of public policy is that? To say to manufacturers, ‘We feel your product is not safe within our borders, but you can go and sell it outside our borders,'” said Bazinet.

While some states are cracking down on the gun industry, others are capitalizing on the economic opportunity and inviting disillusioned companies to relocate. Last month, Texas Gov. Rick Perry sent a letter to 26 gun companies inviting them to relocate their manufacturing operations to Texas.