Washington AR-15 Ban Impacts Local Manufacturers

by
posted on May 11, 2023
Trickle Effect

On April 25, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed HB 1240 into law, which bans the manufacture, distribution, transfer and sale of AR-15s, along with all semi-auto rifles that measure less than 30" in length or wear other features common to semi-automatic firearms. The measure took effect immediately, as did the financial impact on families with a loved one working at the factories, stores and warehouses in the state that specialized in them or their parts.

There’s no shortage of firearm manufacturers there, some of them familiar names. Aero Precision, for example, is based in Tacoma. It’s well known for producing quality AR lowers and parts, among other things, and stays busy with OEM work. It has a staff of more than 200. In 2021, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), the company manufactured 174,091 "Miscellaneous Firearms" (likely all lower receivers, many OEM), among other items.

The Stag Arms factory, also in Tacoma (although company headquarters is in Cheyenne, Wyo.) made 5,540 pistols that year, 21,649 rifles and 13,351 miscellaneous firearms. Zev Technologies, over in Centralia, produced 5,060 rifles that year, 15,046 pistols and 3,630 miscellaneous firearms.

There are others, although most of them small shops producing a few dozen ARs and semi-automatics annually. Regardless, the impact is a big one for every worker, their families and those who handle the firearms downline—distributors, sales representatives and retailers.

Even enthusiasts elsewhere could experience backorders on items, particularly those who already own guns produced in Washington state. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of states eager to attract firearm manufacturers and the employment they bring. When Stag Arms moved its headquarters from Connecticut to Wyoming in 2019, for example, the welcome was a warm one.

“We have a deep-seated commitment to the Second Amendment that I will continue to uphold,” Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said at the time. "Ultimately, Stag Arms had to make a business decision and I believe this announcement is an affirmation that Wyoming is continuing to cultivate a culture that allows private enterprise to flourish."

Other new laws in Washington state also require proof of firearm training in the last five years to purchase a gun and a 10-day waiting period. A variety of legal challenges to the measures are pending, judicial action that could be delayed months or longer under appeal, leaving manufacturers and their staff with some tough decisions in an uncertain economic time.

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