Firearms at a Smith & Wesson trade show booth in 2016. (John Locher/AP)
Smith & Wesson, which has been making firearms since before the Civil War, said Thursday it will move its headquarters to Tennessee after legislators in its home state of Massachusetts proposed gun-control laws that the company said could hurt 60 percent of revenue. The decision to relocate from Springfield, Mass., coupled with the closure of some facilities in Connecticut and Missouri, means that more than 750 jobs will be moved to Maryville, Tenn., the company said in a statement to investors. Smith & Wesson has been based in Springfield since 1852; it said the move will not begin until 2023.
“This has been an extremely difficult and emotional decision for us,” said Mark Smith, the company’s chief executive, in a statement that also highlighted the cost of living and quality of life as reasons for the move. “For the continued health and strength of our iconic company, we feel that we have been left with no other alternative.” Earlier this year, Massachusetts state legislators proposed a bill that would ban gunmakers from manufacturing military-style assault weapons, unless they are specifically intended for use by a law enforcement agency, the U.S. military, or a foreign government that has received State Department approval. There is already a ban on residents purchasing or possessing assault weapons.
The development reflects ongoing tensions between gunmakers, at a time of record firearm sales, and many Americans concerned about gun violence. Smith & Wesson has faced national scrutiny after its guns were used in several mass shootings, including the 2018 Parkland, Fla., school massacre that left 17 dead.
Shannon Watts, the founder of gun-control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, noted on Twitter that the Smith & Wesson announcement came shortly after two high-profile shootings in Tennessee in September.
Synagogue shooting victims can sue gunmaker Smith & Wesson, California judge rules “He sure is excited about the gun manufacturing dollars coming to his state after he weakened gun laws, despite objections from law enforcement and constituents,” she wrote in response to a tweet by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) welcoming Smith & Wesson’s move. It isn’t clear if the Massachusetts bill would pass the Democratic-controlled legislature, but Smith, the firearms executive, said the prospect that comparable laws might be enacted in the future persuaded Smith & Wesson to move to a more gun-friendly state.
“These bills would prevent Smith & Wesson from manufacturing firearms that are legal in almost every state … and that is safely used by tens of millions of law-abiding citizens,” he said. Smith & Wesson will still keep some operations in Massachusetts after the move. Several states, including New York, already prohibit the production of assault weapons. Massachusetts state Reps. Frank Moran (D) and Marjorie Decker (D), who introduced the bill, didn’t immediately return requests for comment. Smith & Wesson’s announcement came several months after a smaller Massachusetts firearms maker, Troy Industries said it was relocating to Tennessee. Two decades ago, Smith & Wesson, under pressure from the Clinton administration after the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, agreed to voluntary changes including child-safe triggers, the development of “smart guns” that could be fired only by the owner, and a ban on sales to gun dealers linked to crimes and those with loose policies regarding background checks.
But the company was nearly destroyed in the face of boycotts from gun wholesalers. It was also branded a traitor by the National Rifle Association.