Famed gunmaker Smith & Wesson will leave its historic 165-year-old headquarters in Massachusetts for a new home base in gun-friendly Tennessee, saying proposed legislation in the deep Blue state to ban manufacturing of assault weapons would devastate its bottom line.
The company announced Thursday that it will build a new $120million facility in Maryville by 2023 and eventually shutter the Springfield location that forged famed firearms like the .357 magnum - used by Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry movies.
However, anti-gun sentiment in the state - sparked by mass shootings involving assault weapons - has been on the rise. The purchase of military-style assault rifles in the state has been banned since 2004, but the manufacturing and distribution of the weapons - which account for 60 percent of sales, according to the company - has remained.
Several lawmakers introducing the assault weapon bill in April described the ability to manufacture and sell the weapons across state lines as a 'loophole' in the existing ban, and hoped that if passed, it would help reduce mass shootings elsewhere.
Smith in his release described the push for a ban as 'arbitrary and damaging legislation,' and said he was confident it would be defeated this session, but 'the unfortunate likelihood that such restrictions would be raised again led to a review of the best path forward for Smith & Wesson.'
'These bills would prevent Smith & Wesson from manufacturing firearms that are legal in almost every state in America and that are safely used by tens of millions of law-abiding citizens every day exercising their Constitutional 2nd Amendment rights.'
With the announcement the company said it will retain its revolver making business in Massachusetts, along with 1,000 jobs
Forging and pistol and revolver making would remain in Massachusetts, however, other manufacturing and distribution would move to Tennessee
Smith & Wesson's current HQ in Springfield Massachusetts, where it has been based since its founding in 1856
Smith & Wesson announced Thursday that it was moving its headquarters from Massachusetts to Tennessee in 2023 (pictured a mockup of the new HQ)
The site in Maryville Tennessee, where the new HQ is slated to be built. Construction is scheduled to begin later this year
In addition to the shuttering its Massachusetts headquarters, and moving 550 jobs out of Springfield, it will also close facilities in Connecticut and Missouri as part of a consolidation plan.
Specifically, the company's plastic injection molding, pistol and long gun assembly and distribution will be moved to the new Tennessee facility, while its metal forging, machining, finishing and revolver assembly capacity will remain in Massachusetts.
The Smith & Wesson Revolver Company was founded in 1856 by Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson in Springfield after the duo's failed endeavor to develop a lever action rifle company in Connecticut.
The Tennessee deal came after about six months of talks between the company and the state of Tennessee, and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee celebrated the announcement on Twitter.
'We're proud this company has chosen to relocate from Massachusetts to Blount Co. Thanks for creating 750 jobs & your significant investment,' he wrote, citing the total number of jobs Smith & Wesson will be relocating to the state.
Bob Rolfe, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said the company had initially contacted him about potentially expanding its manufacturing presence in the state, but that he then pitched the idea of the company moving its entire headquarters during a dinner meeting with executives, the Boston Globe reported.
'That’s a decision that nobody takes lightly,' he told the outlet. 'Do we always convert an expansion for manufacturing into a new headquarters? I wouldn’t say our batting average is close to 1,000 percent . . . but if you win one, that is one more than you had the day before.'
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee lauded the announcement, which came after six months of talks with the state
Introduced in April, 2021, the bill titled An Act To Stop Mass Shootings, is legislation that would further regulate the manufacturing of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices in the state.
It would restrict the manufacture of such weapons solely for the purpose of military agencies and other countries.
It remains in committee.
Smith & Wesson's cartridge revolvers would first come into popular demand during the Civil War, and after, the company would forge a role in America's westward expansion, providing firearms for the frontier.
In 1899, it would develop the .38 revolver, which became the standard police firearm in the US for much of the 20th century.
But anti-gun sentiment has in the state has been on the rise. In 2018 students from across the state rallied outside Smith & Wesson's headquarters to protest gun violence and demand stricter laws, the Boston Globe reported.
The proposed bill has so far