Idaho is the state most dependent on the gun industry, according to a new study.
The study by WalletHub ranked Idaho first in most gun industry jobs per capita and highest total gun industry output per capita, tied with New Hampshire, and was within the top 10 for gun prevalence and gun politics.
The other states in the top five are Montana, Alaska, South Dakota and Wyoming.
Some local residents in the gun industry say there are a few reasons why Idaho is so attractive to gun businesses.
Jared Huckstep, the owner of Hux Customs gun shop in Chubbuck, said a big reason is just the simple fact that Idahoans love guns.
“Being from Idaho, we like (guns),” Huckstep said. “... Our Second Amendment rights are pretty important to us, so anybody that frowns on that probably wouldn’t get into office and therefore they can’t influence the industries.”
Huckstep said there are numerous Idaho companies involved in the firearms industry.
“I try to stock as many as I possibly can,” he said, adding that Idaho companies manufacture “everything from optics to ammunition, firearms, parts, pieces, everything.”
The low cost of living in Idaho is another reason a lot of gun-related businesses are drawn to the Gem State, Huckstep said.
“In Idaho, everything seems cheaper,” Huckstep said. “If you go to California or whatever, everything is more expensive down there. To rent a shop to run your business, it’s going to cost you four or five times as much so then you’re going to have to charge more for your products and they’re not going to be as popular.”
Huckstep said he originally started out painting guns for three years as a side business. Eventually, he started selling guns and business picked up so he decided to open his own shop in August 2015.
“We sell a lot of guns,” Huckstep said. “We’re Idaho — we love guns.”
Clint Goss is a retired Pocatello police officer and the owner of Slidelock Tactical Firearms, who also works as a gunsmith at Old Town Gunslingers in Pocatello and specializes in repairs and gun building and training.
He said that when it comes to opening firearms businesses, people pick Idaho as opposed to other states because it’s so gun friendly.
“Idaho is gun friendly,” Goss said. “When you live in Idaho, you kind of grow up that way, enjoying guns and enjoying the outdoor sports and hunting and fishing and that sort of thing, so it just kind of goes hand in hand. Idaho is definitely not anti-gun.”
Both Huckstep and Goss said the continued success of Idaho’s gun industry depends on politics.
“In the industry and where our country is right now, in the back of my mind, (the industry’s success) depends on what laws pass, how it’s going to affect business,” Huckstep said. “Right now in Idaho, you come in, you fill out your form, we run a background check. If the background check comes back clear, you can take the gun that day. There’s a lot of states that are passing laws that have a mandatory wait period. So you come to buy a gun, you can pay for it and everything, but you can’t take it home for like three days, or in California, it’s 10 days. That would hurt the industry bad. We’re an instant gratification society. We don’t want to sit around and wait.”
Goss said it’s important for Idahoans to, metaphorically, stick to their guns when it comes to allowing law-abiding citizens to purchase guns.
“We need to continue with what we’re doing, which is our way of life,” Goss said. “That’s how we are and we should not change that. Guns are a part of our lives whether people want to believe it or not, because they’ve been a part of the United States since our inception. Certain places have gotten to the point where they want to legislate the law-abiding gun-owner instead of embracing the law-abiding gun owner and going after the criminal element because it’s easier to attack an object than a person.”
Goss thinks some gun businesses will be forced to close because of the way politics are moving.
“Across the nation, we’ll see (firearms businesses) start to diminish,” Goss said. “In certain states, it’s going to get really bad for the owners of the gun shops because they’re being legislated out of business. I don’t understand it. If you look at what’s going on in our society today, the biggest number of killings per capita by using a gun are the states with most strict gun control laws. Why is that? They’re not catching on that it doesn’t work. You can’t legislate bad people by punishing good people. That’s not how it works. And if people who are law-abiding gun owners are good people, then you can’t restrict them and have that fix a problem they’re not part of.”
Though Huckstep said he missed out on the ups and downs of gun sales throughout the presidency of Barack Obama, he said business at his gun shop is looking good.
“We’re always gaining new clientele,” Huckstep said. “We love the guns as much as (the customers) do. I always get the new thing in — touch it, play with it — as much as anybody else. I always have eye out looking for the latest and greatest thing.”
He continued, “We try and be nice to people. Kind of important in a small town like Pocatello. If you’re not polite with your customers and whatever else, they’re not going to come back. Word of mouth is by far the best form of advertising.”
MORE ON THAT STUDY
According to the study, which came out in April, “WalletHub compared the economic impact of guns on each of the 50 states to determine which among them leans most heavily on the gun business, both directly for jobs and political contributions and indirectly through ownership.”
The Idaho Statesman article about the study reported that 40.05 of every 10,000 Idahoans work in the gun and ammo manufacturing industry — about 6,800 employees total in the state.
The industry portion of the study included industry jobs per 10,000 residents; firearms and ammunition dealers and importers per capita; firearms and ammunition manufacturers per capita; average wages and benefits; total industry output per capita; total excise taxes paid by firearms industry per capita; gun industry immunity; minimum age to purchase and possess firearms; and strictness of state gun laws, which includes mental-health records reporting, private-sale background checks, open-carry regulations, concealed carry regulations, prohibition of access to domestic abusers, disarming dangerous people laws, child access prevention and waiting periods before gun purchases.
Idaho did not rank in the top 10 for the highest average wages and benefits, with Idahoans in the gun industry making an average of $42,600 per year, nor in the total gun-related taxes paid.
WalletHub said the Gem State came in 10th in gun prevalence, which was determined by gun ownership rates, gun sales per 1,000 residents, gun ads for private buying and selling and Google search interest in gun sales.
The Statesman reported, “The state ranks third in gun ownership per capita, 56.9 percent, behind Alaska (61.7 percent) and Arkansas (57.9 percent), and ahead of West Virginia (54.2 percent) and Wyoming (53.8 percent).”
Idaho is ranked third in gun politics, according to the WalletHub study. That was measured by contributions to members of Congress from gun control and gun rights groups and also the average National Rifle Association-Political Victory Fund score of U.S. senators.
An Idaho Business Review article also citing the WalletHub study said the Gem State has been courting the firearms industry since 2008 when the Idaho Department of Commerce released a flier “touting the state’s low wages, gun-friendly culture, and business-friendly environment.”
The brochure said, “Idaho’s average workforce costs are 84 percent below the national average. Recognized as a gun-friendly state by the National Rifle Association. Among the least restrictive gun laws in the nation.”
In the Business Review article, Megan Hill with the Idaho Department of Commerce, said employment in the firearms and ammunition industry in Idaho has boomed, growing nearly 40 percent from 2012 to 2017. Meanwhile, across the United States, the industry grew by only 20 percent.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s “Firearms and Ammunition Industry Economic Impact Report 2018,” the total yearly economic impact of Idaho’s firearms industry is more than $1 billion. The report was one of the sources for the WalletHub study.