October 04, 2011

Guns, Irony and Prosperity

Time for a bit of heresy: In a way, I almost hope Barack Obama is reelected. Now I've done it. I know if he is reelected America is in deep trouble, Marianas Trench-deep trouble from which we may never escape, but I speak entirely selfishly. Mr. Obama has arguably been the greatest producer of political topics and satire for bloggers in American history. I have no doubt that Bill Clinton might have been in the running, particularly where steamy content and sexually oriented cheap and easy puns are concerned, but it wasn't until after he left office—literally with White House silverware and furnishings—that the blogosphere really took off as a true alternative to the Lamestream Media. We have Dan Rather to thank for that, which is a delicious morsel of irony in and of itself.

Allow me to clarify my heresy: I'll do all I can to defeat Mr. Obama and to overturn virtually everything he did. However, it is entirely reasonable to assert that the "most transparent Administration in history" has been a particularly rich source of hypocrisy, self-parody, outrage, and above all, irony. A prime example is the fact that Mr. Obama is arguably the greatest gun salesman of all time. A slightly less hilarious and tasty counterpart is that in destroying America's economy, he is driving America's gunmakers out of their traditional, coastal, elite environments into the welcoming arms of the bumpkins of Flyover Country, thus further impoverishing his base. Self-defeating irony doesn't get a lot better than that.

An August 9, 2011 story in the New York Times (I said this was ironic!) by Timothy Williams makes clear two trends: Firearms makers in the Northeast and California are considering moving away from the anti-gun, anti-business climates of their traditional, even historic home bases, and midwestern and southern states are competing to be their new homes. Considering the economy and the Obama Administration's never-ending anti-business policies and regulations, even New York Senator Chuck Schumer—one of the most anti-gun senators in American history—is getting on the bandwagon:

"In New York, Senator Charles E. Schumer issued a news release in May praising Remington after it agreed to move a factory from Maine, bringing with it 40 to 50 jobs.

The release made no mention of Senator Schumer’s record supporting gun control. Instead, it said Mr. Schumer had 'led the effort in Congress to repeal the law that limited competition for small arms contracts, so that Remington can now compete for small arms contracts with the Department of Defense.'”

Life doesn't get much more ironic than that.

For nearly two decades, South Dakota has been working to attract gun manufacturers. Many famous manufacturers of high-quality, top dollar firearms have relocated there, including HS Precision and Bar-Sto Precision Machine. SD Governor Dennis Daugaard actively recruits at gun and trade shows:

“'When we approach gun makers, we first make the cultural argument,' said Gov. Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota, a hunter… “People in business want to feel their business is wanted and welcome in the communities where they are located. In South Dakota, the culture is there. We don’t regulate firearms businesses out of existence.”

Irv Stone, owner of Bar-Sto Precision Machine, which makes competition pistols, moved to Sturgis, S.D., from California last year because he said he found it increasingly difficult to operate in an environment where guns are shunned.

'The cultural thing is like night and day,' he said. 'I felt like the bastard child in California. It is not a firearms culture. In California, it was like: ‘Eww, firearms. Really?’ Here, on the other hand, you are looked at kind of weird: ‘Oh, you don’t shoot or fish? What do you do?’"

Draconian firearms regulations have also encouraged gun makers to move. Micro-stamping is a technology that would require specialized firing pins, perhaps even extractors and chambers that imprint unique identifying markings on fired casings. Research has shown the technology to be highly unreliable at best. Requiring it would increase manufacturing costs and retail prices, and it can be defeated merely by swapping parts or the application of five minutes of filing. Aluminum or steel cartridge casings can defeat the technology entirely. It is particularly ineffective in revolvers which do not eject fired brass, and even where semiautomatic firearms are involved, all an enterprising criminal need do is pick up the fired brass. Manufacturers are, to say the least, unimpressed:

"Gun manufacturers say proposed micro-stamping laws could drive Colt out of Connecticut and Remington out of New York, which are among more than half a dozen states where the legislation has been introduced. California, which employs more firearms industry workers than any other state, has already approved a micro-stamping law that is pending.

Carlton S. Chen, a vice president at Colt, said the company would have few qualms about leaving Connecticut if micro-stamping became law.

'At that point, we and other firearms manufacturers doing business in Connecticut would need to seriously consider whether we should completely move ourselves out of Connecticut and relocate to a friendlier state,' Mr. Chen said in written testimony to a state legislative committee in 2008. 'The upshot would be a loss of thousands of jobs.'”

Illinois, home of pay to play and thuggish government, land where the dead rise from the grave for elections and almost exclusively vote Democrat, is also driving out manufacturers:

"And in Illinois, home to several large firearms manufacturers, a law would ban assault rifles and would prohibit manufacturers from selling guns to state residents.

In recent years, Illinois has lost Les Baer Custom Inc., a small company that moved to Iowa, as well as 1,000 Winchester jobs."

Not that Illinois is getting the message:

"Marcelyn Love, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity wrote in an e-mail, 'I am not aware of an increased effort by other states to lure specific manufacturing sectors from Illinois.'”

Perhaps Ms. Love might want to get in touch with Winchester and Les Baer.

This trend is not entirely Mr. Obama's fault of course, but it is precisely the Statist philosophy embraced by the blue states--which Mr. Obama embodies--that is all but forcing historic firearm companies to move to states where the political and cultural climates are far more welcoming, and where making a profit is actually understood to be a good thing for a private business to do.

Still, some blue states are fighting back—while simultaneously shooting themselves in the foot by pushing policies like micro-stamping:

"But the attempted poaching of its gun makers is not being taken lightly in Massachusetts, which is home to Smith & Wesson, the nation’s largest handgun manufacturer (founded in 1852) and the Savage Arms Company (1894), or in neighboring Connecticut, where Colt (1836), the Marlin Firearms Company (1870) and O. F. Mossberg & Sons (1919) are located.

In 2005, this small region produced 1.8 million firearms, according to the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council, about one-third of all firearms made in the country.

…Massachusetts has published a brochure promoting its firearms makers that traces the state’s gun culture back to 1777, when George Washington chose Springfield as the site of the country’s first arsenal.

…last year, when Massachusetts sought to ensure that Smith & Wesson stayed in Springfield, the state gave the company $6 million in tax credits to relocate one of its New Hampshire factories there. While the factory employs a modest 225 people, Massachusetts wanted to make sure the company would not start shifting operations elsewhere."

Despite a horrendously anti-gun, high-tax, and insane regulatory climate, Smith and Wesson is staying in Massachusetts—for now.

Here’s some additional irony: should Mr. Obama win a second term, the economy would almost certainly continue to decline, forcing more and more businesses and manufacturers—including gun makers—to more business friendly states with rational tax and regulatory climates, with low costs of living and welcoming populations. The more Democrats win, the more their stronghold states lose. Regardless of federal policy, blue states are increasingly cutting their own economic throats, benefitting the red states they so disdain.

Perhaps the ultimate irony, even more delightful than Mr. Obama's inadvertent support for the firearms industry he would be overjoyed to obliterate is the reality that he, in only a single term, may well accomplish more to advance gun ownership, the movement of manufacturers to states where they can expand and prosper, and will have increased the total number of guns and gun owners far more than any Conservative president could ever hope to do. Now that's ironic joy.

Posted by MikeM at October 4, 2011 09:06 PM

I wonder if the RNC is in support of your hope. Considering the candidates they are offering up (and the ones the establishment is destroying) they may be wanting Obama for another 4 years, too.

Posted by: Chris at October 4, 2011 11:31 PM

Didn't Barrett do the Electric Boogaloo out of Illinois as well?

Posted by: Jerry at October 5, 2011 06:45 AM

Great article, I do appreciate the irony that the one industry gaining strength under Obama is firearms.

Small quibble... "...a law would ban assault rifles..." Do you mean it would define and ban certain semi-auto rifles as assault weapons?

As I understand it, the definition of assault rifle to be an infantry rifle capable of select fire from semi-auto to full or burst fire. Therefore new such weapons already prohibited under federal law.

Posted by: styrgwillidar at October 5, 2011 08:51 AM

No, there's nothing ironic about what Schumer said, nor even anything inconsistent. Schumer isn't against guns, he's against you and me having guns. In Schumertopia, cops and soldiers and VIP security details would have lots and lots of guns. Schumer sees nothing the least bit evil about "small arms contracts with the Department of Defense."

Posted by: Joel at October 5, 2011 10:19 AM

i support, even embrace, your irony. i live in oklahoma. may i remind you, that oklahoma is the only state, still in the union, that hussein did not carry a single county/parish. the only state. with that said, i have often contemplated telling those whom i know voted for hussein in '08, that i will vote for him in '12. the reason, i don't want their children to grow up in the same america i did. i want their children to grow up in a third world country.
embrace the irony!!

Posted by: louielouie at October 5, 2011 01:48 PM

Dear Styrgwillidar:

The weapons being discussed are nothing more than semi-automatic rifles in the AR-15 class. Anti-gun zealots have long practiced the deception of tricking the public into thinking that anything that looks black and scary is an automatic weapon. They long for the imposition of another "assault weapon" ban.

A true assault rifle has these characteristics:
(1) Shoulder Fired
(2) Gas operated
(3) Detachable box magazine
(4) Firing an intermediate cartridge
(5) Capable of semiautomatic and fully automatic fire

You are correct in asserting that fully automatic weapons are not generally available in every corner guns hop. Citizens can own them, but the federal vetting process is time consuming, expensive and most annoying.

Thanks for your comments!

Posted by: Mike Mc at October 5, 2011 07:07 PM