State tax incentives generally don't add jobs to the U.S. economy, said Joseph Henchman, who follows state policy for the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research group based in Washington.
"For the most part, these are understood as moving jobs around the country instead of creating jobs — and they may not even be doing that," Henchman said. "It's rare that businesses look only at the incentives when deciding where to locate."
In addition to subsidies, Idaho and Montana have created economic development programs that advertise pro-gun laws. The Montana program has helped three gun companies open, said Republican state Sen. Ryan Zinke, a director of the Montana Firearms Association, which markets the state's strong gun culture and non-union labor force.
"We may not be taking companies away from the East," Zinke said. "We have managed to take away market share."
Pro-gun activists have told state lawmakers that companies might relocate jobs if new firearms restrictions are approved. In Connecticut, lawmakers didn't vote on a proposal two years ago that would have banned the 30-round ammunition magazine used in the school shooting after Jake McGuigan, government-relations director for the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation, lobbied against the bill by referring to recruiting efforts from Idaho, Virginia and North Carolina.
One of the companies that fought that ban was Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., a Springfield, Mass.-based gun manufacturer that, in the year ending April 2011, was awarded at least $6.5 million in tax incentives from Massachusetts and Springfield, its home for more than 100 years.
Smith & Wesson used the money to shift a production line from New Hampshire, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Elizabeth Sharp, vice president of investor relations at Smith & Wesson, didn't respond to telephone messages or email seeking comment.
In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott hailed an incentive for the West Hartford, Conn.-based Colt Manufacturing Co. in 2011, saying it showed the state was "a defender of our right to bear arms." The deal, for 63 jobs, was worth about $1.66 million in state and local incentives, according to Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development arm. The agreement penalizes the company $50,000 if it doesn't produce all the jobs.
Frank Attkisson, a commissioner in Osceola County, which provided incentives, said it was a "sweetheart deal" for Colt and that the county would put tougher controls on future subsidies.
Florida state Sen. Nancy Detert, the Republican chairwoman of the legislature's Commerce Committee, said she's crafting legislation to make it more difficult to provide incentives for companies that don't specialize in science and technology. She said she doesn't want Florida to be known for gun manufacturing.
"We need to be a lot more careful and decide what kind of state we envision," Detert said.