Donald Trump’s election to the White House has inadvertently slowed gun sales as many Second Amendment supporters no longer fear strict gun control. But as a result, the nation’s economy – both public and private sectors – might have to bite the bullet, and some states could take a bigger hit than others.
In its latest impact report, The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the leading trade association for the firearms industry, estimates that the gun arena has created around 30,000 jobs over the past three years. And in 2016 alone, it is reported to have contributed more than $51 billion to the country’s economy and a further $7.4 billion in federal and state taxes.
“The economic growth America's firearms and ammunition industry has experienced over the years has been nothing short of remarkable,” the NSSF stated. “Over the past couple of years, the industry's growth has been driven by an unprecedented number of Americans choosing to exercise their fundamental right to keep and bear arms and purchase a firearm and ammunition.”
The NSSF insists that broader economic impact flows throughout the economy, “generating business for firms seemingly unrelated to firearms,” such as in banking, retail, accounting, metal working, even in printing, all depend on the firearms and ammunition industry for their livelihood.
Subsequently, analysts for financial and credit report site WalletHub have conducted a deeper state-by-state study of the firearms enterprise, releasing their findings this week in the “2017 States Most Dependent on the Gun Industry” report.
Using an array of metrics, the analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across three main dimensions – the firearms industry, gun prevalence and gun politics.
According to the findings, the top ten states most dependent on the business of firearms are Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Idaho, Kentucky and Arkansas.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the states that rely the least on firearms commerce include Rhode Island at the very bottom, followed by Delaware, New York, New Jersey, California, Maryland, Michigan, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Hawaii and Washington.
WalletHub analysts also found that the states and districts which had the highest average wages and benefits in the firearms industry – D.C, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island – ranked among the lowest of overall dependency on the gun industry. States with the lowest wage averages – including Maine, West Virginia, Indiana, Wyoming and New Mexico, typically range between the top to middle of the pack on the dependency list.
"Typically gun manufactures or dealers will set up shop in states with lower labor costs and lower costs of living in order to obtain a higher profit, which is why states with higher wages are generally less dependent on this industry.” WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez told Fox News.
But this may also be a matter of how many other industry’s each state bestows.
“These high wage states have the largest and most diverse economies. Firearms are a cottage industry in the overall scheme of things. They disappear into the margins in these high wage areas,” explained Dennis Santiago, an independent California-based firearms policy analyst. “In places where there's little large industry, cottage industries become far more relevant to their economics.”
Although not covered in the study, states that are home to the world’s leading firearms manufacturers – such as Smith & Wesson in Massachusetts, Beretta in Maryland, Kimber in New York and Colt, Sturm, Ruger & Co. and O.F Mossberg & Sons all in Connecticut – were all, perhaps ironically, found to be very low on overall monetary reliance on the gun industry.
“The states in question have very large financial sectors and relatively small manufacturing sectors,” said Jeffrey Borneman, founder of investment firm Rampart Portfolio Partners, specializing in metals, defense, energy and food. “The fact that arms manufacturing has peaked will not affect the state’s revenue much.”
But it appears, as per the study, that there is no direct correlation between the highest numbers of NICS background checks per capita and how heavily each state relies on the gun business. The states with the most checks – Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Montana and South Dakota – range from 4 to 40 on the dependency scale. However, those with the fewest checks – Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and D.C – were all in the lowest rung of economic gun reliance.
States with high financial interdependence on the firearms industry, such as Alaska, Arkansas were found to have the highest gun ownership.
WalletHub expert Gregg Carter, professor of sociology for the Department of History and Social Sciences at Rhode Island’s Bryant University, noted that the new administration and the Republican-controlled Congressional agenda are focused more “on gun rights, not gun control,” thus advocates for the latter are likely to face steep challenges.
“For example, earlier this year, both the House and the Senate voted to block the implementation of an Obama plan that would have had the Social Security Administration send the names of recipients who had been ruled incompetent to handle their financial affairs to the NICS background system to prevent these individuals from buying guns,” he continued.
However, others say what the survey ultimately shows is that the power centers putting gun regulations on the books are also the places where fewest of the gun dealings happen.
"The most important thing I see in this data is the power of unengaged information electorates. America's gun votes are driven by people in states having large urban centers filled with people who have little knowledge about firearms whose governments are insensitive to the economics,” Santiago added. “All they see of it is the inconvenience being asked to learn about things that are not relevant to their lives. The deeper national interests of the Second Amendment take a back seat in such circumstances."