PRODUCING JOBS: Tennessee Looks at Gun Industry for Jobs

U.S. Gun Sales Reach Record Levels In 2012

I bet gun control activists absolutely hate this. The numbers don’t lie, though.

When executives from Italian gunmaker Beretta USA were looking to expand their U.S. manufacturing base, the first step was to make a list of gun-friendly states.

“The first bright-line criteria was (is) it a state not only that was pro-gun, but that was likely to be pro-gun for many decades or generations to come,” said Jeff Reh, general counsel for Beretta.

It was not until after they assessed the political climate that they turned their attention to what most corporations prioritize: tax rates, workforce quality, education system, climate and proximity to their current base in Maryland. Tennessee rose to the top of their list, and in 2014, the company announced that not only would it be expanding in Gallatin, but it would move its entire operations there.

Across the nation and in Tennessee, the gun debates center around reducing violence and the Second Amendment. To some, firearms are a symbol of freedom and self-protection; to others they are a threat to safety that puts innocent children and bystanders at risk. But to an increasing number of Tennesseans, guns mean jobs.

Statewide, there are more than 1,500 businesses licensed for firearm sales, with 45 in Nashville. Beretta has estimated its new, $45 million plant will add 300 jobs in Middle Tennessee, positions that won’t be going to Maryland.

The reason goes back to attitudes toward guns, Reh says. The anti-gun climate in Maryland’s legislature makes investments in that state too risky. Even with the heavy costs of moving facilities and equipment, it is preferable to reside in a state that is unlikely to restrict its operations.

“We we worried about our future viability in our state,” he said. “Rather than manufacture in a state that might potentially ban our products or had exhibited a consistent anti-gun animus, we decided to look in a state that was more pro-gun.”

Reh is referring to legislation proposed by former Gov. Martin O’Malley that banned assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The measure passed through a Senate committee without including an exemption for manufacturers. While an exemption was added before it became law, it was enough to make Beretta concerned, Reh said.

In Tennessee, where pro-gun bills have sailed through the General Assembly in recent weeks, Beretta executives can rest easy about any anti-gun legislation getting to the governor’s desk, and not just because of the sentiment reflected by lawmakers. Even at the car rental check-out counter, Beretta officials got a warm reception from their constituents, reassuring them that Tennessee political winds would not shift anytime soon.

Economic impact of sporting arms and ammunition in Tennessee

  • 1,531 direct jobs
  • $73.5 million in direct wages
  • $49,476 is the average wage

Read more: tennessean.com

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