Threats about out-of-state boycott of new state gun laws prove empty
For most of us, this is good news. For some gun advocates, not so much.
You’ll recall all the wailing and gnashing of teeth that occurred during the last legislative session when new laws limiting the size of ammunition magazines and providing for universal background checks were passed by Colorado lawmakers. We were told all manufacturers of gun parts would be leaving the state, hunters would avoid Colorado and the gun laws signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper would supposedly drive politics in Colorado for the near future.
To be fair, there has been political blowback from passage of the two common-sense gun laws, which polling shows are supported by large numbers of Coloradans. An August poll by Quinnipiac University showed 82 percent of Colorado voters surveyed, including seven of 10 Republicans, supported background checks on gun sales, while support for limits on magazine capacity was more evenly split with 49 percent in support and 48 percent opposing.
Two lawmakers in Colorado Springs who supported the gun laws have been recalled. Another attempt to recall a Durango-area legislator failed. A fourth attempt, in Adams County, is struggling but still pending.
At least one of the GOP gubernatorial candidates has posted pictures of his entire family gunned-up, so he must feel there’s some residual ill will against Hickenlooper out there.
But in mid-October, six months after threatening to move operations out of Colorado if new gun laws were passed, Magpul Industries was still in business in Boulder County. And the supposed boycott by out-of-state hunters has fizzled, with both numbers of applicants and numbers of licenses purchased showing increases.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials were cautious earlier in the year when applications for limited licenses showed growth, saying it would be more appropriate to wait until the numbers of actual licenses purchased indicated whether or not the boycott was successful. Additional numbers are now in, and they don’t provide much to cheer about if you were one of those hoping a decline in hunter numbers would bolster your political case against the new gun laws.
There were more than 5,000 additional hunters in the field for the big game seasons just concluded, based on hunter numbers compared to last year, prior to passage of new gun legislation. Significant numbers of big game licenses are sold to out-of-state hunters, good news for Parks and Wildlife, which depends on license revenue for much of its budget, and for Colorado communities for whom the $1.8 billion hunting and fishing economy provides significant revenue.
If the boycott by out-of-state hunters had materialized, it could have been disastrous.
For most of us in our hunting party south of Gunnison during the third rifle season, the price of admission was a $49 resident license. For a couple of our party, the ante was a $589 out-of-state license. That’s the piece that supports CPW efforts to manage wildlife. The rest of what we spent, on food, gas, hunting supplies, processing and the like stayed mostly in Gunnison County.
With total license numbers and net sales up, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where out-of-state license purchases declined.
Personally, I’d have been surprised at any negative impact from the calls for a hunter boycott. The combination of more elk and lower license fees than in most states makes Colorado a very attractive locale for out-of-state big game hunters. Why pay more to hunt fewer animals elsewhere?
One might also wonder — I know I do — why anyone would cheer the potential loss of jobs should companies like Magpul leave or the negative impact a hunter boycott might have on Colorado communities, including the ones where they live. Doesn’t sound much like patriotism to me, but then I’m not a single-issue patriot.
Undoubtedly, the political pawing and snorting will continue. It’s hard to imagine another signature issue for Republicans, what with the economy improving and unemployment declining. It would be hard to out-Hickenlooper our present governor on oil and gas issues. It’ll be interesting to see whether the gun laws have much residual political play come next November, 20 months after they were passed.