COVID-19, Supply Chains, and Firearms Manufacturers

I received an email yesterday afternoon from Kimber. It was detailing the impact of COVID-19 on their operations. Kimber has plants in both Yonkers, New York and Troy, Alabama. If you have spent any time watching the talking heads on TV, you know that New York has overtaken Washington State in the number of coronavirus cases.

Here is part of what was in the email:

Due to the New York state decision to shutter non-essential businesses as part of the COVID-19 response plan, Kimber Mfg. Inc. has stopped production at its New York facilities. 

Production continues at Kimber’s new, state-of-the-art Troy, Alabama manufacturing facility, with the entire line of handguns and long guns being assembled. Due to the large number of parts manufactured in Yonkers and the state mandated closure in New York, the Troy facility will suspend production on March 31st . “This situation is unfortunate as we were off to an incredible start in gun shipments in 2020 and were running our factories seven days a week. We would like to thank our dealers and consumers for their overwhelmingly positive response to our 2020 new products,” said Greg Grogan, Kimber president. With that said, if you are in the market for a Kimber firearm, now is the time to make that purchase.”

Kimber’s Alabama based customer service and repair services remain open to help customers with any questions they may have. In addition, the Alabama based Kimber online store is open and products are shipping as long as inventory lasts. Montana based dealer sales and customer service departments also remain open.

The bottom line is that even though your assembly plant is in an area which only has a relatively small number of coronavirus cases, you are still impacted adversely. Alabama has 531 cases as of today versus New York State with 39,140 cases according to the Johns Hopkins University compilation. Indeed, Westchester County, NY where Yonkers is located has over 10 times as many infections as the entire state of Alabama.

Then there is the whole issue of essential versus non-essential businesses. Some states have said firearms manufacturing would be considered an essential business because it provides tools to the defense industry or to law enforcement. Other states do not consider it essential. Even if you are in a state that considers your production essential, if your subcontractor making critical parts is located in a place that takes the opposite view, you are screwed.

The firearms industry is composed of primarily small businesses. Even the largest companies like Ruger and Smith & Wesson are considered small by comparison to other manufacturers. While the products are flying out the doors now, a mid to long period of enforced closure due to the pandemic is going to hurt.

Perhaps The Locals Do Know Best

We often complain about national groups coming in and telling the locals how they should be doing it. This is usually in the context of a group like Mike Bloomberg’s Everytown, Moms Demand Action, or Giffords. However, sometimes it is our own side in the battle for gun rights that is doing this.

Such is the case in Alabama where the NRA is supporting a move to consolidate the list of pistol permit holders, that state’s nomenclature for a concealed carry permit, into a statewide database. The bills in question are HB39 and SB47. The bills provide for the permits to be standardized and issued statewide. They also provide for a lifetime carry permit.

This move is getting a mixed reaction as reported by CBS 42.

Bama Carry and the Alabama Gun Rights Network don’t always agree on the best strategies for advancing gun rights in the Heart of Dixie.

However, when I reached out to friends who are affiliated with those organizations, the response I got was virtually identical. They are opposed to the bills in their current form as they create a database of gun owners which has the potential to be abused.

My friend Beth Alcazar, the Alabama representative of the DC Project and a board member of Bama Carry, had this to say to me in a Facebook message. I’m quoting her with her permission.

At the heart of this matter (and why we are hesitant to get on board) is the fact that law abiding gun owners will be on a registry, with all information being shared, statewide, and this info. could end up on a driver license. This, of course, could cause problems traveling across state lines. What if someone is stopped or pulled over and now questioned or harassed (or searched) because of this identification? And what happens if a government body must be created to oversee this database? Currently, our permit info. is only in the hands of our sheriffs. A lifetime permit could open that up… from just local to state.

Additionally, the NRA doesn’t appear to be listening to Alabamians or to our state’s largest gun rights group, and they continue to push legislation that has potential problems or unintended consequences.

And therein lies the problem. When it is a matter of state and local politics, local activists should be listened to. That there seems to be a disconnect between local gun right rights groups and the NRA on an issue of local concern is not good. The NRA should either defer to the local groups or work to find a compromise that satisfies all gun rights groups involved.

We in North Carolina had much the same problem in 2011 concerning gun bans outside the home during periods of declared emergencies. Grass Roots North Carolina along with local plaintiffs and the Second Amendment Foundation brought Bateman v. Perdue. The NRA-ILA representative in North Carolina was pushing for a quick legislative fix that would have mooted the case. The problem with a quick legislative fix was that it could have been changed on the whim of the next General Assembly. GRNC, SAF, and local activists had to push legislators to let the court case run its path. In the end the General Assembly did that and we won a decision in Bateman declaring the gun ban unconstitutional.

I wrote back then (June 2011) that “there are some in the NRA’s hierarchy who believe the NRA has to be the be-all and end-all of all things Second Amendment.” I noted that the NRA does some things really well and others not so well. I said the NRA should concentrate on training, the legislative arena, and other areas where a mass organization can do well. I didn’t think they were nearly as good at Second Amendment litigation as SAF.

I would now modify my statement from 2011 to say that the NRA does lobbying at the national level well and should work closer with state and local groups on state level lobbying if they want to be effective. Moreover, by state and local groups I don’t mean it has to be the NRA state affiliate as the experience of non-affiliates VCDL and GRNC has shown. Whether the NRA and their state ILA representatives are wise enough to recognize this is still open to debate.

Alabama Summers And Snowballs

Now that the Zimmerman trial is over, gun prohibitionists and their political allies have declared a jihad on Stand Your Ground laws. Many of the attempts to repeal the protection that these laws give to persons exercising their right to self-defense will come in the state legislatures.

One of the latest attempts to repeal these laws is coming from the state of Alabama where certain Democrats vow to repeal that state’s Stand Your Ground law.

A Democratic lawmaker said Tuesday there would be an effort to repeal Alabama’s version of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in the next legislative session, but acknowledged it could be a difficult fight.

“We know it will not just be uphill, but up mountain,” said Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, at a news conference.

Alabama has had a Stand Your Ground law since 2006 when it was sponsored by then-State Sen. Larry Means (D-Attala). Much like in Illinois in 2004 where then-State Senator Barack Obama supported that state’s Stand Your Ground law, this law was supported by Democrats.

In the last session of the Alabama Legislature, they were presented with a bill to repeal the Stand Your Ground law. That attempt didn’t make it out of committee. Nonetheless, Sen. Sanders plans to attempt it.

Sanders said he did not know what the scope of any Senate action would be or who would take the lead on it, but said he would sponsor a repeal effort if no one else did. Republicans control large majorities in both chambers, but Sanders said he would work on repeal for “however long” it took.

Frankly, I’d rate his chances of getting his bill out of committee right up there with a snowball not melting when left out in the midday sun during a hot Alabama summer. In other words, it doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of passing.