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The Exodus Of California Gun Companies Continues

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

It’s been a long time since California could be considered Second Amendment-friendly, but the trend of gun and ammo manufacturers fleeing the state is a relatively new phenomenon. Over the past few years companies big and small have left the state; including Weatherby, which moved to Wyoming in 2018; Shield Tactical, which moved to Texas the same year; and holster maker Safariland, which moved its production lines to a factory in Florida.

The latest company to make the move to a firearm-friendly climate is Bishop Ammunition Manufacturing, a gun and ammo manufacturer that opened for business in North Highlands, California back in 2009. Merissa Bishop, a disabled combat veteran and attorney, has grown her company quite a bit since she first started making ammunition on a commercial basis, but California won’t be getting any more of her company’s tax dollars. Bishop and her wife Dianne, who co-owns the company, are taking their equipment and moving to Idaho.

Merrisa, a proud Donald Trump supporter and Republican voter for the last 15 years, says the gun laws and the politics in California have made it difficult to own a gun shop, and she can’t stand living there anymore. In 2018, she and Dianne attended the annual Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas and became acquainted with John Regetz, the former president and CEO of Bannock Development Corporation.

They told him about the challenges of owning a gun shop in the Golden State, and Regetz suggested they relocate to Pocatello. With just the two of them, Merrisa didn’t think it could feasibly be done at that time. They met up at the SHOT Show the following year, and in 2020, Merrisa says they started to take Regetz’s suggestion seriously.

“We started the process of looking for property, and we looked at all kinds of buildings,” says Merrisa. “We originally considered (purchasing) Sam’s Gun Shop, which is (also) on Jefferson, but I really didn’t like the location. Then I saw Doc’s, and it had the exact look I was looking for.”

As she’s visited Pocatello in recent weeks, she says it feels like home because people are polite and respectful, and it reminds her of the way Orange County was more than 40 years ago.

The Bishops are moving their base of operation to the site of a former gun store in Pocatello, Idaho, and is hoping to have their shop up and running by early next year.

Renovations on the gun barn will get underway soon. Merrisa wants to replace the carpet in the building with a wood floor and add a wood-burning stove so she can share an old-fashioned pot of coffee with customers and have jars of penny candy for the kids.

She’s planning to have a grand opening once the shop is up and running.

“We look forward to our new home in Pocatello and contributing to the community,” says Merrisa.

That sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? I wish the Bishops well, and while I know it’ll be tough to leave friends and their community behind, it sounds like Merissa Bishop has gotten fed up with the state’s politics. As it turns out, she isn’t alone. For a variety of reasons, all kinds of businesses are pulling up stakes and getting out of the Golden State.

Tech companies like Slack, Square and Coinbase have announced their businesses will be remote-first. Others, like Pinterest, Salesforce and Yelp, are shedding office space. Now, according to a new report, more companies have already moved their headquarters outside of California so far in 2021 than in 2020.

If the pace keeps up, the number will double what it was last year, according to the report from Stanford’s Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank. So far, its data shows that 74 companies have already moved their headquarters to other states in 2021, surpassing the half-year average for 2019 and 2018. It’s also more than the number of companies that moved away in all of 2020.

Furthermore, these numbers are likely a vast undercount of how many businesses are leaving the state, the report’s authors say, as it’s not often reported when small businesses choose to leave California.

Yeah, I doubt the Bishops’ two-person operation is going to be counted in the tally of corporations taking flight from California’s high taxes and cost-of-living, along with its increasingly socialistic politics. And while Bishop Manufacturing may not have the tax base of companies like Oracle or Hewlett Packard Enterprises, which are both leaving Silicon Valley for the state of Texas, its departure is still bad news for the state (though I’m sure the anti-gun politicians in charge would disagree).

According to the 2020 census, California lost population for the first time since 1900, with nearly 200,000 fewer residents compared to the year before. Now, that’s a small portion of California’s overall population, but it’s also still equivalent to a small city up and moving to greener pastures. Officials claim the population drop was a statistical blip and not the start of a trend, but I’m not so sure about that.

California’s conservative critics have spent the better half of this century warning that the state’s relatively steep tax rates on higher-income individuals and voluminous regulations will chase the Golden State’s job creators to less taxed and regulated states.

But a new analysis from the Public Policy Institute of California says the state remains as attractive as ever for the well-off. It’s people in the working and middle classes who are leaving, largely due to high housing and other costs. “In the past five years the flow of middle-income residents out of the state has accelerated,” wrote Hans Johnson, a demographer with the institute.

The super wealthy can afford to live with California’s high tax rates. The middle and working class not so much. As for gun owners, Second Amendment supporters, and those in the firearms industry, California’s golden glow looks more like fools gold with every new gun control law approved by the anti-gun supermajority in Sacramento. The exodus of gun companies and gun owners isn’t exactly new, but it does look like it’s here to stay (unlike the gun owners and companies themselves).

Jul 03, 2022 8:30 AM ET