By Joe Bartozzi
New York has gone and done it again. The Empire State is considered the “least free” state in the Union. That’s not much of a surprise to those in the firearm industry or gun owners who call New York home.
Cato Institute released “An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom” ranking all 50 states on 14 categories of freedom, from economic freedoms (relating to tax policies) to personal freedoms, which included gun rights. Overall, New York ranked dead last.
That wasn’t just this year, though. New York has taken the dubious distinction every year since 2000. That’s 23 years straight. New York is good at being bad at freedom. They’ve got good – or bad – company. Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Oregon and Maryland took the next five spots at the bottom of the list.
When it comes strictly to gun rights, Hawaii was listed as the worst. Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Delaware and Rhode Island rounded out the next bottom five spots. New York and California were 42 and 44 respectively.
On the opposite end, New Hampshire – the Live Free or Die State – was listed as the overall most free state in the Union. Florida, South Dakota, Nevada, Arizona and Tennessee were the next five spots. On gun rights, Kansas came out on top, with New Hampshire next, followed by a three-way tie for third between Arizona, Idaho and Utah.
Those findings aren’t a big surprise for those who pay attention to the battle of gun rights versus gun control. The legal landscape for gun rights in New York is dismal. The state is fighting to preserve a law to allow unconstitutional lawsuits against gun manufacturers for crimes committed by remote third parties. Put another way, the state wants to let families of victims of the criminal misuse of firearms to bypass Congress and the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). They want to use the families to sue gun makers for the crimes committed by criminals – but not for anything that the manufacturer did wrong.
That’s not all. New York passed a sweeping law restricting places where law-abiding concealed carry permit holders could actually carry a gun. That law initially put Times Square off limits. Criminals didn’t seem bothered. A court, however, reigned in the law.
New York also now requires background checks for ammunition purchases. That new law is causing logistical nightmares. The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) doesn’t run checks for ammunition purchases, so those must all be performed by New York State Police. That was so inefficient, a county sheriff attempted to buy shotgun shells for a sporting clays fundraiser and wasn’t approved until a full day after the event was over.
New York’s got a bevy of other problems. Residents have been giving up their New York citizenship for those of other states with lower taxes, few restrictions, lower cost of living, less crime and – yes – greater gun rights. More than half a million left in 2022 and the majority ended up in Florida – a state that was ranked second overall as most free.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams doesn’t seem to get it. He just announced that instead of calling on the Biden administration to enforce the law and protect the U.S. border, he’s going to eat into the city’s police budget and reduce the number of officers on the street. The NYPD will have less than 30,000 police on the job for the first time in decades, even as crime plagues New Yorkers.
New Hampshire is a different story entirely. The state passed a Constitutional Carry law in 2017, which made it even more of an anomaly among its Northeast neighbors. Even before that, New Hampshire stood out from the rest of New England. While Massachusetts lost firearm manufacturing jobs to other states over onerous gun control, New Hampshire is home to SIG SAUER, as well as some manufacturing for Sturm, Ruger & Co.
Gov. Chris Sununu has rejected numerous gun control attempts during his three terms as the state’s governor, writing in a veto message, “New Hampshire is one of the safest states in the nation, and we have a long and proud tradition of responsible firearm ownership. Our laws are well-crafted and fit our culture of responsible gun ownership and individual freedom.”
There’s not a causal link, but there is a correlational link to be made. The states with the most freedom are also states that welcome the firearm industry and trust citizens to exercise their rights. Lawmakers in those states understand that taking away the rights of those who obey the law doesn’t correct the actions of criminals that ignore the law.
Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis signed two pro-firearm industry laws in quick succession this year. Gov. DeSantis signed a law to prevent “woke” corporations with discriminatory policies against firearm industry members and other businesses from collecting taxpayer dollars through state contracts and pensions. Just days later, he signed another law that bars credit card companies from implementing a special Merchant Category Code (MCC) for credit card purchases at firearm retailers.
South Dakota’s Gov. Kristi Noem’s first act was to sign a Constitutional Carry law and later signed another law wiping out fees for those who wanted a concealed carry permit. She also signed an Executive Order prohibiting state agencies from entering into contracts with corporate banks that discriminate against the firearm industry. She’s been to NSSF’s SHOT Show to invite firearm and ammunition businesses to move to South Dakota, a pitch she continues to reiterate.
Cato’s Freedom Index underscores what the firearm industry has seen from years of business realignments. States that respect personal freedoms also tend to respect economic freedoms. Those states grow and prosper. States like New York cling to excuses to rachet down on rights, only to see their citizens and rights wither away.
Joe Bartozzi is the President and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
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