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New Laws Send Colorado Gun Businesses Packing

Brennan Linsley

Colorado passed gun control legislation in the wake the Aurora Theater and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, and businesses are starting to react.

Four companies have announced plans to relocate all or some operations out of the state. Several others are mulling over a potential move.

The largest company packing its bags right now is Erie-based Magpul Industries. The 200-employee business makes gun accessories and high-capacity magazines—something the Colorado legislature voted to ban last month.

Magpul can still legally manufacture high-capacity magazines in the state. But they can’t sell them here starting July 1. The company is leaving because it disagrees with the new gun laws on philosophical grounds. HiViz, Alfred Manufacturing and Lawrence Tool & Molding have also announced plans to relocate all or some operations out of the state.

It’s a similar picture across the country in Connecticut, which passed stricter gun measures this year. Gun maker PTR Industries says the laws are forcing it to leave the state. According to the Associated Press, two other companies are also considering a move.

Hunter Boycotts

Outdoor hunting expedition companies are another industry that’s seeing fallout from Colorado gun control measures. The businesses are the target of a boycott by out-of-state hunters.

“It’s a foot in a door, it’s the beginning of the end—that’s how everyone relates to it. If you’re going to do this, what’s next?” says Wes Atkinson who runs Fort Collins-based Atkinson Expeditions. “So this is their way of trying to put a stop to it and Colorado outfitters and business owners that deal with guns and the ones who pay the price”

Credit Grace Hood / KUNC
Wes Atkinson owns Atkinson Expeditions. Colorado businesses like Atkinson’s are the target of a boycott by out-of-state hunters.

People who use outfitters like Atkinson spent an estimated $231 million in Colorado the last time it was measured.

In the meantime, four television shows airing on the Outdoor Channel are pulling production from the state. It's a loss for Atkinson, who says the shows were a form of advertising for his business.

“That’s our marketing engine,” says Atkinson. “[It’s] time to get creative because they’re leaving.”

None of Atkinson’s 200 scheduled trips have been canceled. But he says several long-standing clients have asked him to guide hunts in other states like Wyoming or Nebraska.

Doing the Math

So exactly how much will gun control legislation cost the state?

Richard Wobbekind, an economist at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, says there is some effect to losing manufacturers and hunters who might boycott the state. He says that no state wants to say goodbye to high-paying manufacturing jobs.

“But I think the overall impact is pretty small given the size of the economy,” he says.

Wobbekind estimates that for every Colorado ammunition manufacturing job lost, an equivalent job is disappears in the form of employment and indirect spending.

Overall, the loss will be in the hundreds, not thousands. Colorado has more than 2.3 million workers and a gross domestic product of $264.3.

Some Gun Businesses Support New Legislation

Not all gun-related businesses in the state consider the new gun laws problematic.

Inside Jax Outdoor Gear east of Boulder business is booming. President Jim Quinlan says gun sales have nearly doubled since November. But they’re not as high as they could be. Last December Quinlan decided to phase out assault rifles and high capacity magazines following both the Aurora Theater Shooting and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Credit Grace Hood

“I just don’t feel like we need to be in the business of selling AR 15s and 30-round clips, and paramilitary weapons. That’s just not something I personally want to be in the business of selling,” says Quinlan

The move sparked strong responses from customers on both sides of the gun debate. Ultimately Quinlan says he thinks the loss and gain in sales will cancel each other out.

Editor's note: The audio of this story, as did a previous Web version, incorrectly says that the Outdoor Channel is moving production out of Colorado. It is four television shows that are moving production out of the state.

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