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January 24, 2023

SHOT Show Rewind: New and Familiar Faces Highlight 2nd Annual Governors’ Forum

By Matt Manda

Seven of the country’s most impactful firearm industry supporters gathered on one stage to talk about their steadfast leadership for gun rights and their respective successes in attracting gun industry jobs to their states.

There was plenty of news at the 2nd Annual Governors’ Forum at SHOT Show® 2023. NSSF’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Lawrence Keane led a wide-ranging discussion that included newly-elected Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen and Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo as well as recently-reelected Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, Idaho Gov. Brad Little and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, as well as first-term Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte.

Home State About Face

Gov. Lombardo, who was formerly Clark County Sheriff, welcomed SHOT Show attendees and his fellow governors to the Battle Born State.

“Welcome to Las Vegas,” Gov. Lombardo began. “There’s a new sheriff in town.” Attendees cheered, welcoming the pro-industry atmosphere compared to the previous governor who was not a true supporter of the firearm industry.

“I obviously support the industry and the fact that I’m even sitting here today is a testament to that. I want the industry… to know that I have no intentions of being oppressive or onerous… I will support you [SHOT Show] 100 percent,” Gov. Lombardo said.

Keane responded over applause, “That’s music to our ears. Thank you, Governor.”

Recruiting Industry Jobs

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has attended SHOT Show even before becoming governor while serving as the state’s treasurer. Keane praised the governor’s efforts to recruit firearm industry businesses to the Cowboy State. Wyoming was among the Top Ten states, per capita, in 2022 for firearm industry total economic output, growth in economic output, total industry jobs, industry jobs growth, federal excise taxes paid and growth in excise taxes paid, according to NSSF’s Industry Economic Impact Report.

“We care a lot about the firearms industry. We will do everything to resist any kind of attempt to somehow do something to our Second Amendment rights,” Gov. Gordon stated. “I want you all to know that when a company comes to Wyoming, we have the number one tax environment in the country… we care about the industry and what’s most important is you have access to the state’s top leaders,” the governor said, recognizing Wyoming state senior leaders in the crowd.

The record of success speaks for itself. Over the last several years, Magpul Industries left Boulder, Colo., and moved production to Laramie, Wyo.; Weatherby Inc.’s Adam Weatherby announced at SHOT Show in 2018 he was moving the company from California to Sheridan, Wyo.; Accessories maker HiViz announced in 2013 they were leaving Fort Collins, Colo., also moving to Laramie; Stag Arms announced in 2019 they were leaving New Britain, Conn., and opening their new facility in Cheyenne, Wyo.; and Kel-Tec announced plans in 2022 to expand production and bring 250 jobs to Rock Springs, Wyo.

Gov. Gordon also spoke of signing into law last year the Firearm Industry Nondiscrimination (FIND) Act, prohibiting banks that hold policies of discrimination against lawful firearm manufacturers and retailers from receiving Wyoming taxpayer-funded government contracts.

Nebraska’s Priorities

Fresh off his inauguration as Nebraska’s 41st top executive, Gov. Pillen said signing into law Constitutional Carry in the Cornhusker State is a top priority.

“Yes, it’s a very high priority,” Gov. Pillen quickly stated. “Last year the legislature missed it by two votes. We worked very, very hard since the primary [election] to make sure we got a lot of red vests. We feel very, very good about it now. The stars have lined up.”

Nearly every state surrounding Nebraska already has Constitutional Carry as law, including in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Keane also praised Gov. Pillen for helping the firearm industry with another major victory – appointing former Nebraska governor and staunch Second Amendment supporter Pete Ricketts to fill the remaining two years on the state’s senate seat vacated by former U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse’s retirement.

‘Woke’ Banks on Notice in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gov. Stitt made his first appearance on the Governors’ Forum stage. He made a strong stand in the Sooner State against “woke” banking institutions during his first term and was rewarded by voters. The legislature passed and Gov. Stitt signed a law a bill that requires the state to divest from any financial company that boycotts the fossil fuel industry, known today as Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies. Now the governor is taking aim at banks that discriminate against the firearm industry.

In 2022, every legislator in both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate voted in favor of the Oklahoma FIND Act, only to have it fail on final approval when a poison pill amendment siding with banks was added. Gov. Stitt made it clear there would be no repeat of that during the 2023 session.

“We absolutely think we’ll get the FIND Act bill across the finish line this year. We’ve already protected our oil and gas industry and we’re going to protect our assets, our way of life. It’s important that we don’t put our Constitutional rights in the attic just because somebody in Washington, D.C., tells us to. So very easy decision for us,” Gov. Stitt declared.

Gov. Gianforte stressed his support for a Montana version of the FIND Act, adding his administration has already taken steps to end “woke” investing. The governor, along with the Montana Board of Investments, announced Montana’s commitment to maximizing returns on the state’s $26 billion in investments over advancing a political agenda through ESG investing.

“As the State of Montana invests its financial assets, our priority is and should always be maximizing returns for our shareholders – the people of Montana,” Gov. Gianforte said in a press statement. “On my watch, we won’t undermine taxpayers’ returns on investment in favor of the trend of activist, woke capitalism through ESG investing.”

Listen to the full hour-long 2023 Governors’ Forum conversation here.

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