October 01, 2021
On September 30, 2021, Smith & Wesson announced that it will be moving its Springfield, Massachusetts, headquarters to Maryville, Tennessee, a Knoxville suburb. It was only a matter of time. Firearms manufacturers have been fleeing the northeast in droves in recent years, as those states become increasingly hostile both to firearms businesses and customers. Like many companies before it, Smith & Wesson is taking its operations, its jobs and the revenue that it generates to greener pastures.
Since the Revolutionary War, the Connecticut Valley has been the heart of America’s firearms industry. The original Springfield Armory was there along with Remington, Colt, Smith & Wesson and others. Known as “gun valley”, this swath of land that sweeps through New England was once to the gun industry what Detroit was to automobiles. Now, due to an increasingly hostile environment, firearm manufacturers are leaving in droves.
The legislatures and Governors of states including Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and California have effectively declared war on gun owners, forcing companies to relocate to more industry-friendly locations. Alternatively, southern and western states have welcomed the firearms industry and its employees with open arms, offering tax incentives, a lower cost of living for employees and a more predictable legislative and regulatory environment to companies. During the past decade alone, Beretta fled Maryland for Tennessee, Remington and Kimber built operations in Alabama and Colt attempted to move to Florida. This phenomenon isn’t just happening on the East Coast, Weatherby and Magpul both moved to Wyoming, fleeing California and Colorado, respectively.
When it came to explaining the decision to leave Massachusetts, which ranked 49th in Guns & Ammo’s most recent “Best States for Gun Owners” feature, Smith & Wesson’s President and CEO Mark Smith didn’t mince words. "This has been an extremely difficult and emotional decision for us, but after an exhaustive and thorough analysis, for the continued health and strength of our iconic company, we feel that we have been left with no other alternative."
Smith also cited legislation recently proposed in Massachusetts that, if enacted, would prohibit the company from manufacturing certain firearms in the state. "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. While we are hopeful that this arbitrary and damaging legislation will be defeated in this session, these products made up over 60 percent of our revenue last year, and the unfortunate likelihood that such restrictions would be raised again led to a review of the best path forward for Smith & Wesson."
Moving all of Smith & Wesson’s manufacturing operations, including the company’s enormous forging tools, would not be feasible. For this reason, some functions will remain in Springfield for logistics sake. All forging, machining, metal finishing, and assembly of revolvers will remain on site. The company will continue to have more than 1,000 employees in the state.
By repeatedly passing laws attacking the firearms manufacturers and their customers, numerous states have made it abundantly clear that they do not value this industry. Fortunately, there are alternatives available. Business-friendly states will continue to reap the benefits and Massachusetts’ loss is Tennessee’s gain.
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