Gun-Related Businesses Look to Leave Colorado in Face of Stricter Gun Laws
(DENVER) -- While Colorado works to become the most business-friendly state in the country, gun-related businesses talk about leaving the state following the passage of gun control legislation that restricts the sale of high-capacity magazines and requires background checks for private and online gun sales.
"We realize some companies may choose to relocate, and we respect their decision to do so," said Eric Brown, a spokesman for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Since gun control legislation took effect in Colorado last month, companies such as Magpul Industries, a weapons components and magazine manufacturer, and HiViz Shooting Systems, a weapons optics manufacturer, have announced plans to leave the state.
Colorado and other states have either passed or are considering tougher gun laws since several high-profile shooting sprees, including an attack at an Aurora, Colo., theater last year that killed 12 and the shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., in December that took 26 lives.
"Colorado is a beautiful state with great people, but we cannot in clear conscience support with our taxes a state that has proven through recent legislation a willingness to infringe upon the constitutional rights of our customer base," HiViz' CEO and President Phillip Howe said in a statement on the company's website.
But it's not just gun manufacturers that have said they want to pick up and leave.
The economic impact of HB 1224, as the gun control law is known, has trickled down to outfitting businesses that take customers hunting, and to a segment of the television industry that produces its outdoor programming in the state.
Michael Bane, a host and executive producer at the Outdoor Channel, had said he would cease production in Colorado even before the gun control legislation had been signed into law.
"The message we will take to our viewers and listeners is that these proposed laws are so dangerous to hunters and any other person, be she a fisherman or a skier who brings a handgun into the state for self-defense, that we cannot recommend hunting, fishing or visiting Colorado," he wrote in an email to state Sen. Steve King on March 5.
Bane forewarned lawmakers of the potential destructive nature of the bill on the state's reputation with hunters and hunting industries.
In the email, Bane said "hunting had an almost $800,000,000 impact on Colorado in 2012, driving as many as 8,330 jobs," according to statistics provided to him from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
ABC News' attempts to verify that information with the National Shooting Sports Foundation were unsuccessful.
Bane said that relocating his production would cost Colorado nearly a million dollars in 2013. The legislation made it "simply too dangerous for us to film here," the email said.
"Michael Bane is an independent executive producer and host of four popular programs on the network," said an Outdoor Channel spokesman. "However, his views and the direction in which he takes his productions do not necessarily reflect those of Outdoor Channel."
Wes Atkinson, owner of Atkinson Expeditions, a full-service outfitting company in Fort Collins, Colo., told ABC News that the law's impact on the state's economy was already obvious.
While Atkinson, 37, said that while his company was "relatively healthy," he'd lost at least $30,000 since the bill became law in March.
His longtime customers have told him they are no longer willing to hunt in Colorado.
"They say to me, 'Wes, would love to hunt with you and your operation. Can we hunt in Wyoming or Nebraska, where they still protect the right to bear arms?'"
Atkinson said despite the bill's limitations, he understood the importance of growing his business. On April 25 he sent out a newsletter to customers announcing his company was expanding to Nebraska for hunting season, starting in September.
"If I tried to rely on the Colorado legislature to keep me in business, I'm just being stupid," he said. "So I'm going to Nebraska. I am just going to adapt."
Atkinson said he has made plans to shift 25 percent of his business to Nebraska, and has spent $35,000 to date leasing property in the state for hunting season.
"That's $35,000 not being spent in Colorado, and that's just the lease cost," he said. "The dollars that were spent in [Colorado] are just going to dwindle as this continues to progress."
He anticipates spending $90,000 on hunting season, which lasts from September to December.
Atkinson said it was a losing battle to maintain his business in Colorado, as the outdoor community's voice was stunted by the recent shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn.
"Legislation-wise, the outdoor community has no voice in Washington, D.C., said Atkinson. "We didn't have a voice in our own state, even though we represent 80 percent of the nonresident dollars that comes into this state to purchase licenses for the state of Colorado. There was nothing we could do," he said.
"Colorado is a different color than it used to be," he said.
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