January 2, 2013

States have subsidized assault rifle makers to tune of $19M

Taxpayers across the country have subsidized the manufacturers of assault rifles used in multiple mass killings.

By John Christie, Naomi Schalit, Theresa Sullivan Barger and Nathaniel Herz © Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting

(Continued from page 1)

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Barbara Richardson: “I feel horrified at the power of the gun industry over our political system, that it could exert such influence.”

Photo by Theresa Sullivan Barger

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Mary Hamula: “I think with everything that happened in Newtown, I think the culture around guns is going to change. If something positive comes out of it, that’s all we can ask for.”

Photo by Theresa Sullivan Barger

Related Documents

PDF: Gun subsidies by state

Ladd Everitt of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence predicted that the public will “react very angrily to” taxpayers subsidizing assault weapons.

“Finally, after decades, we are having a serious conversation, and with this conversation is coming invaluable education about what politicians are actually doing,” said Everitt.

The Center’s findings are based on a comparison of the known makes of semi-automatic rifles with state records and the “Subsidy Tracker” data base compiled by the Washington-based organization Good Jobs First. A Good Jobs First spokesman said while its data base is the most extensive available, it is not comprehensive.

Semi-automatic rifles, often also referred to as AR-15s, were used not only by Adam Lanza at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, but also in the Christmas Eve shooting in Webster, NY by William Spengler, a 62-year-old ex-con who killed two firefighters and wounded two others. Both Lanza and Spengler also killed themselves.

Excluding the recent New York shooting, Mother Jones magazine has reported that since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass murders using firearms in the country, in 30 states. Assault weapons like the AR-15s were involved in more than half of those shootings.

Smith & Wesson, one of the two largest recipients of state tax subsidies, did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the subsidies granted to the company.

Remington Arms, the other large recipient of subsidies, responded through a spokesman for its owner, the Freedom Group, by emailing a link to a publication, “Firearms and Ammunition Industry Economic Impact Report 2012.” The publication was produced by the gun industry’s trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“For your story, you may want to include the following firearms industry economic impact data,” wrote Teddy Novin, Freedom Group’s director of public affairs.

The study details the industry’s jobs numbers for 2011: 98,752 employed by gun manufacturers, with an additional 110,998 jobs in “supplier and ancillary industries.”

“In fact, in 2012 the firearms and ammunition industry was responsible for as much as $31.84 billion in total economic activity in the country,”  write the study’s authors.


Maine senator: no red flag

In Maine, Smith & Wesson has received two types of tax subsidies. From 2008-2010, it received $107,120 from the Employment Tax Increment Financing (ETIF) a program the state says encourages businesses to hire new employees by refunding from 30-80 percent of the state withholding taxes paid by the business for up to ten years.

Smith & Wesson’s plant in Houlton also received $51,671 in abatements for property tax on its equipment under the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program, initiated by King.

The Bangor Daily News recently reported that Smith & Wesson officials say it has invested $3.3 million in the past three years in its Houlton plant and the payroll has grown to  $4.2 million.

Bushmaster, maker of one of the most well-known assault rifles, was located in Windham. The plant closed in March 2011, when its owner, Freedom Group, moved the operation to New York. Freedom also owns Remington. In 2010, Bushmaster was exempted from paying $2,405 in taxes on its business equipment under BETR.

State Rep. Adam Goode, D-Bangor, co-chair of the legislature’s taxation committee, said,  “There are lots of different tax breaks and credits that … lots that people may be outraged about.  My goal …  would be for the legislature to have a conversation about tax breaks and how we evaluate them and how effective they are.”

The Senate co-chair of the committee, Anne Haskell, D-Portland, said the state police purchased Bushmaster rifles from the company when it was based in Maine.

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