Firearm industry adds billions to state, federal economies

Pardon the pun, but the firearm industry is really booming.

Since 2008, gun sales have climbed steadily. So, too, has the number of firearm-related jobs. According to a recent study commissioned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, today’s firearms industry employs 134,429 people who make more than $5.9 billion in wages and create a direct economic impact of nearly $17.8 billion.

Those numbers represent substantial increases from 2008. For example, the number of jobs has climbed 78 percent, from 75,600 to 134,429. Even in a stagnant economy, wages have climbed 149 percent, from $2.4 billion to $5.9 billion. The direct economic impact has climbed 162 percent, from $6.8 billion to $17.8 billion.

With that much money changing hands, some of it inevitably ends up in small, lightly populated states such as West Virginia.

According to the survey, the firearms industry employs 634 people in the Mountain State. Their wages total $19.08 million a year, which works out to an average salary just shy of $30,000.

Wages aren’t the only way the industry benefits the state. Manufacturers pay an 11 percent excise tax on every gun and every piece of ammunition they make. That money goes to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which distributes it to state fish and wildlife agencies based on each state’s number of hunting-license holders.

Those excise taxes have climbed to more than $863.7 million a year. West Virginia’s cut of the pie amounts to $4.35 million. The Division of Natural Resources uses that money to help fund wildlife-related programs.

The NSSF study also contained information about economic impacts from firearm-industry suppliers and impacts from ancillary businesses. The numbers were impressive. In West Virginia, for example, the combined impacts from wages, suppliers and ancillary businesses supposedly add up to $153.9 million a year.

I say “supposedly” because those are, in my opinion, fuzzy figures arrived at by economists who base them on how many times that money changes hands. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer direct-impact numbers.

To me, the direct-impact totals are impressive enough. Officials in our state government would stand on their heads and gargle peanut butter to attract 634 jobs that paid an average of 30 grand apiece. As long as Americans continue to enjoy hunting and target shooting, and as long as they continue to purchase firearms for self-defense, firearm-industry jobs will continue to play a role in the state’s economy.

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One of the great joys of being the Sunday Gazette-Mail’s outdoors writer is that folks sometimes call me up to give me ideas for articles and columns. I truly appreciate it when that happens; after all, I’ve been doing this for 35 years.

During that time, I’ve “used up” several thousand ideas and am always searching for more.

So if you know a person who has done something you think might be newsworthy, or if you’ve spotted a trend you think is important, please don’t hesitate to give me a shout. My e-mail address is johnmccoy@wvgazette.com, and my office phone number is 304-348-1231. I look forward to hearing from you.

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