Along with abortion and homosexuality, gun control and gun rights are among the most polarizing subjects in current American political life.
Gun advocates, backed by the National Rifle Association and many Republicans, demand a strict adherence to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by allowing them free access to any weapon of their choice, while gun control proponents often motivated by recurring deadly massacres, fret that too many guns are already in circulation and limitations must be imposed on the availability of such deadly firearms.
Caught in the middle are gun manufacturers (mostly small companies that sell a legal product) and millions of gun owners (the overwhelming majority of whom do not commit violent crimes). The debate over guns indeed represents a facet of the so-called “culture war” that shows no sign of resolution.
Now, changes in the country’s political environment have pushed some gun manufacturers to pack up and move, especially from the northeastern U.S. Over the past year, in the wake of stricter gun control legislation passed by state governments in New York and Connecticut (in response to the horrific mass murder of 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012), several firearms makers have either threatened to relocate to the South or have actually done so.
In October 2013, Townhall.com reported that American Tactical Imports, or ATI, a Rochester, N.Y.-based importer and distributor of domestic firearms became the third New York gun manufacturer to leave the state partially due to Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo’s SAFE Act — a piece of gun control legislation enacted in January in response to the Sandy Hook massacre. The SAFE legislation severely limits the sale of assault weapons and this year will track sales of ammunition across the state. In November, ATI packed up and moved 700 miles away to sunnier climes (and a more gun-friendly environment) in Summerville, S.C., just outside Charleston.
Guns.com reported that ATI will bring 117 jobs to South Carolina as well as a new $2.7 million investment in Dorchester County, S.C. Moving to the Palmetto State will also enable ATI to enjoy proximity to key shipping routes (i.e., the busy port of Charleston), facilitating product deliveries, particularly from Germany, from where ATI imports many of its products.
“This move to South Carolina will help ensure a solid foundation for our company,” said Tony DiChario, president of ATI. “The people of South Carolina have welcomed ATI with open arms and we are excited about making our new corporate home there.”
Of course, South Carolina also provides strong support for the Second Amendment and welcomes new businesses.
“South Carolina is a destination for job-creating investments,” gushed Republican Governor Nikki Haley while Bobby Hitt, secretary of South Carolina’s commerce department, said: “Our state’s business-friendly resources and excellent workforce further underscore what makes South Carolina just right for business,” according to Guns.com.
Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, the state affiliate of the NRA, told the Buffalo News that most of ATI’s product line would be banned for sale in New York under terms of the SAFE Act.
“ATI believes it is imperative that a firearms importer and manufacturer do business within a state that is friendly to the Second Amendment rights of the people,’’ the company said in a statement.
In July 2013, another New York-based gun maker, Kahr Arms, a subsidiary of Saeilo Enterprises Inc., which is based in Pearl River, N.Y., said it planned to relocate its headquarters not to the Deep South but rather to neighboring Pennsylvania, again citing Cuomo’s SAFE Act as the primary factor. By January 2014, the Pocono Record newspaper reported that Kahr had purchased a 600-acre property in Pike County in northeastern Pennsylvania, a rural, deer-hunting region.
“We don’t feel welcome [in New York],” said Frank Harris, Kahr’s vice president for sales and marketing, to the New York Times. “All the people we were dealing with [in Pennsylvania] on the town level were hunters and comfortable with firearms. We were received with open arms.”