Arkansas is the nation’s fifth most dependent state on the gun industry, and the most dependent in the South, according to WalletHub, a personal finance website.
The company’s analysts studied the gun industry in each state and the District of Columbia to determine which states depend the most on it for jobs, have the highest gun ownership, and make the most gun-related political contributions.
Arkansas ranked fifth overall. It had the fifth most gun-related jobs per capita with 17.7 per 10,000 residents, while the industry’s $51,217 average wages and benefits was the nation’s 14th highest. The per capita firearms-industry output of $385 was the country’s fourth highest, and the $3.41 in per capita taxes paid by the industry was the country’s 12th highest.
Arkansas Economic Development Commission Director Mike Preston said Arkansas firearms-related manufacturers employed more than 2,600 people in 2014. The largest is the Remington ammunition plant in Lonoke. Other manufacturers are an Umarex airgun facility in Fort Smith, the Daisy Outdoor Products facility in Rogers, and two companies in Berryville, Nighthawk Custom and Wilson Combat & Scattergun Technologies, that make high-end custom handguns.
Meanwhile, Arkansas had the second highest adult gun ownership rate at 58%, and was 18th highest in National Instant Criminal Background Check System checks, with 87 per 1,000 residents.
The state ranked 19th in terms of contributions to members of Congress by gun-rights and gun-control groups. The Center for Responsive Politics found zero dollars contributed by gun control organizations, tying Arkansas for first with other gun-friendly states. The state ranked 26th in gun rights contributions, with $4,284 contributed per 100,000 people.
WalletHub came to its conclusions using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the FBI, the BMJ Publishing Group and the Center for Responsive Politics. The top four states, in order, were Idaho, Alaska, Montana and South Dakota. The bottom five, starting with 47th, were Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Delaware.
The report comes on the heels of two economic development announcements made by Gov. Asa Hutchinson Jan. 21 during his trip to the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas. Remington announced that day it would add 84 jobs at its ammunition manufacturing plant in Lonoke. Sig Sauer announced plans to employ 50 at a new ammunition plant at an existing facility in Jacksonville.
Sig Sauer was one of six companies Hutchinson called during his first day in office. Hutchinson was the only state’s governor at the SHOT Show aside from Nevada’s.
In addition to WalletHub, Forbes magazine has ranked Arkansas the nation’s third most gun-friendly state.
AEDC’s Preston said the political climate is helping Arkansas recruit gun manufacturers. He said President Barack Obama’s recent executive order expanding background checks for buyers makes manufacturers nervous, while gun control laws elsewhere encourage manufacturers to look for gun-friendly states to call home.
“If you look at some of the Northeastern states and the laws that they’re passing right now that are not favorable to gun ownership, it’s kind of a slap in the face to those firearm manufacturers that are residing in your state, and you’re seeing more that those companies are no longer doing their expansions within the state,” he said. “They’re finding states, mostly in the South, to do their expansion, and even some cases, a complete relocation because of the laws that are more friendly to just firearms in general.”
Jill Gonzalez, analyst for WalletHub, said the website approached the issue without an agenda. She said guns are an economic issue as well as a social one.
“We see this with smoking as well,” she said. “A lot of the states that are tied to big tobacco just tend to have a different perspective here. I think a lot of states that are tied to firearms have a different perspective as well, kind of looking at it as something to benefit their state, more of an economic issue than, say, strictly an ethic or morals issue.”