January 24, 2024
The 2024 SHOT Show's second day tackled a topic that couldn’t be ignored this week as crowds gathered at The Venetian Expo and Caesars Forum—politics with the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday and the likelihood of a Trump-Biden rematch in the general election.
The Second Amendment will almost certainly be a topic of considerable debate by those running for office this fall, if previous history and news cycles are any indication. And while some might wish to avoid the topic, that wasn’t possible on Wednesday as the National Shooting Sports Foundation held the 3rd Annual Governors' Forum at SHOT Show and welcomed a panel of governors to speak.
Sitting before a packed house and standing-room-only crowd, many of the topics discussed included the governors’ ideas about the importance of the firearms industry in their respective states, Second Amendment rights of their citizens and what lies ahead in the ongoing debate about gun rights.
The lineup announced for Wednesday’s Governors' Forum lineup included Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders; Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp; Idaho Gov. Brad Little; Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte; Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen; Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo; Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt; and Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon.
Now in its third year, and falling in the Presidential election cycle for the first time, this year's Governors Forum—along with the similar SHOT Show Attorney General’s Forum also being held in Las Vegas this week—has been an anticipated event in this hyper-politicized year. Wednesday's crowd on the fifth floor of The Venetian Expo Hall seemed to confirm that.
"The governors invited to speak at this year’s forum are the leading voices for protecting Second Amendment rights and the firearm and ammunition industry that provides the means for Americans to lawfully exercise those rights,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President & General Counsel, in a news release about the event.
“NSSF’s Governors’ Forum provides a unique opportunity for SHOT Show attendees and industry media to hear directly from those governors, especially as we head into an election year when the Biden Administration has squarely taken aim at our industry in an effort to decimate it," Keane added. "These governors are the vanguard of American liberties and the values we hold dear. NSSF has regularly welcomed governors to SHOT Show, but this is a truly special chance to gather with these governors in one space to speak about the importance of the firearm industry and Second Amendment freedoms to their states.”
Huckabee Sanders, one of the governors who spoke, posted on X (formerly known as Twitter) following her participation in the event that she was “Honored to join other Republican Governors @nssfshotshow to show support for the gun and ammo industry and our Second Amendment. In my state we love new jobs, love new businesses and love the Second Amendment. Set up shop in Arkansas—you won’t regret it.”
Sanders also reposted a tweet from someone in attendance, a post in which Sanders was quoted in saying that “My dad taught me from a very early age that you cannot be a great country if you can’t: feed yourself, fuel yourself and fight for yourself – to defend our freedoms. The ability to protect ourselves protect all other freedoms.”
Her comments echoed a theme of the Governors' Forum that focused on how firearms and ammunition businesses have fled state's with restrictive gun laws, moving their companies to states that are considered friendlier.
Arkansas has seen a surge of firearms and ammunition businesses relocating to a state renowned for its world-class duck and goose hunting. One of those took place during the pandemic year of 2020 when Fiocchi USA opened manufacturing operations in Little Rock with a reported $15 million capital investment, an economic move that created 85 jobs. Two years later, Fiocchi USA also selected Little Rock for a new primer manufacturing facility, a move that brought a $41.5 million capital investment and 120 new jobs into the state's capitol city.
In 2021, Vista Outdoor acquired the longtime Remington Ammunition Facility in Lonoke, a decision that added hundreds of jobs to the well-known facility that greets travelers driving along Interstate 40 into the heart of Arkansas’ duck country. And just last year, renowned firearms maker SIG Sauer announced that it was expanding its ammunition manufacturing facility in Jacksonville, Ark., with a $150 million capital investment and 625 jobs being created.
Similar moves in the past decade or so have included firearms maker Kimber relocating its corporate headquarters from New York to Troy, Ala.; Remington Firearms, Norma Precision Ammunition, Taurus and Daniel Defense all making moves into Georgia; Winchester Ammunition moving most of its production from its historic Illinois roots to Oxford, Miss.; Sturm, Ruger and Co. expanding production at a North Carolina facility; Kahr Arms moving its headquarters from New York to Pennsylvania and pulling most of its production out of Massachusetts; Beretta moving its firearm production and engineering out of Maryland and into Gallatin, Tenn., along with Smith & Wesson also opening its new headquarters and manufacturing facility in the Volunteer State last year; and Mossberg expanding production at its Eagle Pass, Texas, location and Colt Competition moving from Oregon into the Lone Star State as well.
One of the more notable relocations in recent times took place a few years ago when Weatherby Inc.’s Adam Weatherby announced at the 2018 SHOT Show that he was moving the well-known rifle and shotgun company from its California roots to Sheridan, Wyo.
The discussion among state executives at the Governors Forum wasn’t the only gubernatorial activity at the SHOT Show on Wednesday, as several of the governors in attendance strode onto the crowded show floor, visiting exhibitor booths, meeting and greeting people, and encouraging businesses with roots in their respective states.
Among those walking the show floor were Sanders and her Montana counterpart, Gov. Greg Gianforte, to name a couple.
Gianforte spent considerable time touring the SHOT Show exhibit halls, tweeting out on the social media app X that “I’ve arrived at SHOT Show in Las Vegas! It’s been great to visit with Montana businesses in the firearms and ammunition industry. Montanans strongly support the second amendment.”
Later on, Gianforte—who looked the Big Sky State part as he wore a Simms shirt (a Bozeman, Mont., fishing gear and outdoors lifestyle clothing manufacturer), boots, blue jeans, and a large western-style belt buckle—cut a short video at the Montana-based Mystery Ranch pack producing company’s booth. And during his afternoon visit, Gianforte also did a podcast as he discussed his SHOT Show visit and the topics of the day.
The Montana governor then finished up his SHOT Show business with this tweet: “Montana is home to 150 firearm and ammunition companies – the most per capita in the country. With our pro-business policies and strong #2A culture, we’re working to recruit more.”
To those attending both the SHOT Show Governors Forum and the trade show itself on Wednesday, that was music to the ears in what promises to be a contentious election cycle, at least where the firearms and ammunition debate is concerned.