This Labor Day, America’s 1st Freedom salutes the tens of thousands of people employed by the shooting-sports industry. Without these workers, Americans would not be able to have and to use the firearms, ammunition and shooting gear that makes the Second Amendment a pragmatic reality.
And, with an American economy beset by the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing turmoil due to the war in Eastern Europe and our own economic difficulties, it is important to note that the shooting-sports industry not only remains a bright spot, but continues to expand its economic contributions.
Currently, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, U.S. companies which make, design, distribute and sell firearms, ammunition, hunting equipment and related shooting gear employ as nearly 170,000 people in the country and generate more than 206,000 additional jobs in supplier and ancillary industries. These additional jobs include supplying the goods and services to shooting-sports manufacturers, distributors and retailers, as well as those jobs which depend upon sales to workers in the firearms and ammunition industries.
Consider, too, the overall growth experienced across the shooting-sports industry and the impact this has had on the larger American economy.
In 2008, for example, the shooting-sports industry and related jobs accounted for roughly 166,000 jobs in all, meaning, today’s total of 375,000 jobs marks a 126% increase in employment in this industry.
The total wages paid for these jobs in 2008 was $6.4 billion. By 2021, that number surged to $21.4 billion, a 234% increase. And the total economic impact of the wages and spending by industry workers represented over $70 billion to our economy in 2021 alone, a 269% increase since 2008!
With jobs and wages come taxes being paid, and last year NSSF estimated the shooting-sports industry and its employees paid over $7.86 billion in taxes. This included property, income and sales-based taxes.
Industry jobs pay well, too, averaging just approximately $57,000 annually, supporting individuals, families and their communities.
Political leaders in many states and their economic development agencies recognize the importance of the shooting-sports industry. Which explains why SHOT Show 2022, the industry’s main trade show, saw a panel of six state governors urging shooting-sports companies large and small to consider moving to their states.
The governors on this panel were Brian Kemp (Ga.), Kristi Noem (S.D.), Pete Ricketts (Neb.), Mark Gordon (Wyo.), Mike Dunleavy (Alaska) and Asa Hutchinson (Ark.). Not coincidentally, all these states and their leaders are pro-Second Amendment, and their states not only offer business incentives but also citizens who regularly exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Arkansas Gov. Hutchinson (R) has made the trip to SHOT Show every year it’s been held while he’s been in office. For Arkansas, the shooting sports mean more than 7,000 jobs and $1.6 billion in economic activity. For Alaska and Gov. Dunleavy (R), it’s 1,100 jobs and $122 million, and for Gov. Gordon (R) in Wyoming, the footprint is 1,400 jobs and a $300 million economic boost.
Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Arkansas are all in the top 10 states for firearm industry job growth per capita, while Wyoming, Georgia and Alaska are top 10 states for growth in economic output.
Anti-Second Amendment polices at the state level can cost states jobs—literally. The latest example of this is Smith & Wesson, one of America’s legendary gun makers.
Smith & Wesson was a fixture in “Gun Valley,” the nickname given to the Connecticut River Valley and home to such iconic operations as the original Springfield Armory, and later Colt, Smith & Wesson and Winchester.
Incorporated in 1852 and headquartered in Springfield, Mass., Smith & Wesson announced in 2021 that it was leaving Gun Valley, in no small part thanks to anti-Second Amendment legislation proposed in that state’s legislature.
In a 2021 press release announcing the move, Mark Smith, Smith & Wesson’s president and CEO, specifically cited bills introduced in the Massachusetts Legislature that, if enacted, would prohibit “any rifle or shotgun containing a semiautomatic mechanism” to be possessed within state borders.
"These bills would prevent Smith & Wesson from manufacturing firearms that are legal in almost every state in America and that are safely used by tens of millions of law-abiding citizens every day exercising their Constitutional 2nd Amendment rights, protecting themselves and their families, and enjoying the shooting sports,” Smith noted.
He added that the firearms targeted in this legislation represented 60% of the company’s 2020 revenue.
The winner here? Tennessee, where Smith & Wesson is investing over $125 million in a new state of the art facility in Maryville, which will soon employ 750 new workers. The shooting-sports industry already employed nearly 7,800 people in Tennessee through direct or indirect jobs, jobs that contributed over $1.07 billion in economic impact.
That positive economic impact on the Volunteer State will only grow as Smith & Wesson’s workers begin building some of America’s most-popular firearms.
All of this economic activity is a benefit to American freedom.