Gunmaker Smith & Wesson is leaving the northeast for Tennesse and its less restrictive gun laws.
The company was founded in New England in the 1850s and was eventually headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts. It created some of America’s most iconic firearms, including the Smith & Wesson Model 29, which is known as the .44 Magnum
Now, the company will spend $125 million to relocate to Blount County, just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee.
“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,” Chief Executive Mark Smith said in a statement.
He thanked Gov. Bill Lee and the Republican legislature “for their unwavering support of the Second Amendment and for creating a welcoming, business-friendly environment.”
He added that other factors that influenced Smith & Wesson’s selection were the area’s lower cost of living, quality of life for employees, the availability of qualified labor for its operations and headquarter function, and its favorable location for efficiency of distribution.
Proposed legislation in Massachusetts would stop the company 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” — effectively wiping out products that accounted for 60% of the company’s revenue during 2020.
Gun ownership is on the rise in America, with 23 million guns sold during 2020. At least one-fifth of all gun sales went to first-time gun owners.
While the move will not occur until 2023, Smith said that the company was making the announcement to give employees time to prepare.
“Our loyal employees are the reason for our success and are always our number one priority,” he added. “We are deeply saddened by the impact that this difficult decision will have on so many of our dedicated employees, but in order to preserve future jobs and for the viability of our business in the long term, we are left with no choice but to relocate these functions to a state that does not propose burdensome restrictions on our company.”
The Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development said with its relocation, the company would add about 750 jobs to the local economy.
For Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, the announcement is a “devastating loss.” He said in a statement that his city would lose at least 550 jobs.
As part of the consolidation, the gunmaker will close its operations in Connecticut and Missouri. Some of the business’s operations will stay in the Springfield area.
“The company’s announcement comes after a period of record gun sales in the U.S. during the Covid-19 pandemic, widespread civil unrest in 2020, and a surge in violence in many cities,” reports The Wall Street Journal.
Smith & Wesson expects to start construction on their new headquarters by the end of the year.