Virginians working in the firearms industry are concerned that Gov. Ralph Northam’s gun control agenda could force them and their employers to leave the state. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with several folks here at SHOT Show who are native Virginians, and while all of them have been involved and engaged in the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement, they’re also preparing for what might happen if bills like HB 961 become law.
Zenith Firearms is based in Afton, Virginia, not far from Charlottesville. While the company is located in Nelson County, which is a Second Amendment Sanctuary, vice president Andy Eckert knows that designation won’t save the company if it becomes illegal to manufacture and sell so-called “assault firearms” in the state.
“It’s very upsetting. It’s unacceptable,” he told me. “If all the bills that have been proposed by the governor pass, it would drive us effectively out of business in Virginia.”
Zenith deals in Turkish-made firearms, but they don’t just serve as an importer and distributor. They also do enough work on the guns to qualify as a manufacturer.
“But not only could we not make improvements to the guns, work on them to the extent that it qualifies as manufacturing, we also couldn’t sell them, so that would be the most crippling thing. So we would have to relocate to another state if the relevant bills become law.”
John Gaddy is a lifelong Virginian who works with Idaho-based Nemo Arms. He says for most of his life, he voted only in presidential elections, but the takeover of state government by Democrats last November has caused him to get much more involved in local politics, and he says he knows many other gun owners who are doing the same.
“I know several friends of mine who’ve never cared that much for politics because its never effected us until now, and there are more of me that have come out of the woodwork that are saying ‘hey, I need to get out and do stuff!’ I’m a prime example of that. Now I’m awake, I’m involved, and I will continue to be involved.”
Both Gaddy and Eckert attended their county supervisors meetings to push for Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions, and they know how engaged gun owners are across the state. In fact, on Monday several of Zenith’s employees were in Richmond for Lobby Day, while the rest of the team was setting up their booth at SHOT Show thousands of miles away.
“If we weren’t at the SHOT Show, probably everyone here would have been in Richmond on Monday morning,” Eckert explained. “It’s very clear that it was a resounding success for our side in that it totally made the anti-gunners look like fools for lying about the people who were there. They said it was going to be a white supremacist crowd and other ridiculous things, but reality showed they couldn’t have been more wrong about who was there.”
Any ban on manufacturing or selling so-called “assault firearms” that becomes law would likely take effect on July 1st of this year, which won’t leave companies much time to look for a new home if necessary. However, given the recent offer by West Virginia lawmakers for the NRA to relocated to the Mountaineer State, I wouldn’t be surprised if similar offers (and perhaps even incentives) were made to the Virginia firearms manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers impacted by the anti-gun legislation.