January 06, 2022
While those who watch so-called “mainstream media” on a regular basis get a steady diet of fawning stories about anti-freedom, anti-Second Amendment governors like California’s Gavin Newsom and New Jersey’s Phil Murphy, state leaders who are truly and quietly moving their states forward are often ignored.
That’s the case with Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a successful businessman and 2A advocate who has not only turned his eye toward drawing more manufacturers to his state, but is zeroing in on firearm manufacturers and other companies in the industry. That fact that Stitt’s very first bill signing was the state’s constitutional carry law back in 2019 tells you just about all you need to know about his priorities. Yet his appreciation and promotion of all freedoms, not just the right to keep and bear arms, is a breath of fresh air in a time when many governors are using their positions to trample various aspects of liberty.
Stitt recently took time out of his busy schedule to discuss with me, a lifetime Oklahoma resident, some of the things that the state has to offer firearm manufacturers who are considering relocating from far less 2A-friendly states.
Firearms News: Are you a shooter and/or hunter? Can you tell me about that?
Governor Kevin Stitt: Yes, I’m definitely a hunter. I like to go to the gun range, but I’m more involved on the hunting side. I grew up quail hunting; that was my Dad’s hobby. We always had English pointers. Then, in high school I kind of got into deer hunting. In college I got my first bow, and I actually killed an Oklahoma black bear this year with my bow, so that was pretty exciting. I’ve kind of gotten into elk hunting. I started doing that back in college. I’ve killed one in Utah, and one in Colorado last year, as well. I’ve got a couple of sons who are really enjoying the outdoors, and I’m kind of getting them started appreciating the outdoors as well.
FN: What are your thoughts on the Second Amendment as it was intended by the Founders?
KS: I think we need to do a better job teaching our young people about the Constitution and how brilliant our Founders were in those early states that were a little bit distrusting of big, federalized government and reserved certain rights for the states, and gave certain rights to the citizens. And that includes the right to own and bear arms. It’s so important that it is protected.
My first bill that I ever signed into law in the state of Oklahoma back in 2019 was the constitutional carry bill. That’s how much I think of the right to keep and bear arms. Obviously, there should be zero erosion in the right of American citizens to bear arms.
FN: That got some people on the other side of the debate up in arms, didn’t it?
LS: Yeah. All the naysayers who said it was going to be chaos were wrong. Crime is actually down. Recidivism is down in Oklahoma. Oklahomans have so many great things going for them.
FN: Does all the gun control efforts at the federal level disturb you as governor of a very conservative, 2A-friendly state?
KS: You know, it does. I think more than that is just the backdoor way that they’re going after ammo manufacturers, the banking and investment crowd, and the “woke-ism” of America that some of the big corporations are refusing to do business with, from either accounting or financing, some of the manufacturers. That’s why in our state we think we’re the right spot. Our banking community has no problem banking with this industry.
It’s just a different feel in Oklahoma—all the way from Covid to the right to bear arms. The freedom that we believe in Oklahoma, the God-fearing attitude that we have, is so different than in other states.
FN: Please tell me about some of your biggest accomplishments concerning the Second Amendment since you have been in office.
KS: Constitutional carry obviously was a huge one. But I think you look no further than the difference between our state and some of these other states. We believe in personal responsibility. We believe in freedom. We believe in supporting our law enforcement. If you remember, when all that rioting stuff was happening President Trump even came and chose Oklahoma as his first state to start his campaign in. I was very clear with our law enforcement that we were going to allow people to peacefully protest, but we would arrest immediately anyone who gets out of line.
FN: Many people, even lots of Oklahomans, don’t know that our state has a number of companies in the firearms business. Please tell me about that.
KS: We’re home to 114 firearm manufacturers, including Rise Armament and Tromix Corporation. So, we employ about 4,500 Oklahomans in that industry, and it’s a huge economic impact for our state. And our workforce: You know, whenever I talk to businesses and recruit it’s always about workforce. We have a lot of technical schools that are helping create a great pipeline of workers with mechanical skills that are sought by manufacturers. One of our two-year colleges has a firearm manufacturing degree.
And from a business standpoint, no matter the industry, we’re the Number 1 most affordable electricity cost to the consumer and to the manufacturer in the country. A lot of people love that, and we’ve got a huge competitive advantage there. Also, as far as tax burden and cost of doing business, CNBC rated us Number 1 in lowest cost of doing business in the entire U.S. I’ve set a goal to have fewer regulations by 25 percent at the end of my first term. So, we’re well on our way toward cutting regulation. We are so pro-business that people just love it when they get here. I realize, since I come from the business world, that we want to work with industry. I tell all our regulatory bodies, “We want to be clear with our rules, but we never will play gotcha with a business. We want to make sure we’re helpful and that we create a level playing field. We never pick winners and losers. We just create a level playing field and allow them to go compete and win.”
All the time businesses are saying to me, “Thank you so much, Governor, for keeping our state open because our counterparts in other states are sucking air because these other dictator governors are trying to tell people who can be open and who can’t, and trying to mandate the freedoms we enjoy.” I’m always going to side with Oklahomans to make the right decisions for their own family and their own safety.
FN: What have you accomplished to make the state more attractive to manufacturers, and what are some things you are trying to accomplish?
KS: We’re going to be going out to SHOT Show. I’m going, and I’ve got my secretary of commerce going, so the state leadership will there trying to encourage people to take a look at Oklahoma. We think there is a great arbitrage right now in the state of Oklahoma with cost of living, with quality of life, with wages, that this is the right spot to locate as a manufacturer. This is where the puck is heading. Oklahoma is the right spot to be. Our state is growing. We’re attracting people from all over the country moving to Oklahoma right now because of our freedoms and our way of life.
FN: Can you talk about any specific companies you’ve worked with, or any who might be considering moving to our state?
KS: That’s probably a little bit too specific right now. Most of the time we have NDAs with different companies that we’re talking to about locating here. But we have been doing a really good job of locating manufacturers. We just landed a big electrical vehicle manufacturer in northeast Oklahoma with 2,000 jobs. We’ve been going hard after automobile manufacturing and parts manufacturing, and that’s a huge win for us. Aviation and aerospace is a huge industry for us right now and we’ve got a lot of good wins there. For all the reasons we discussed, gun manufacturers and ammo manufacturers just fit right in perfectly with Oklahoma values and the cost of doing business here in Oklahoma.
And we’re centrally located. If you’re shipping anywhere in the country, this is the right spot to be. If you’re an overseas company and you’re looking for a U.S. presence, we’ve got an international strategy that we’re trying to get people to look at Oklahoma. If they need a U.S. presence to manufacture or to ship all over the U.S., we’re the best state to do that from.
FN: What have you enjoyed most about being governor?
KS: The thing that I’ve enjoyed and I feel like I brought to Oklahoma is just a “can-do” attitude. You know, I started a company with just $1,000 and a computer, and we grew it into a nationwide mortgage and banking operation with 1,700 employees today. Just knowing what’s possible. Sometimes my state just hasn’t performed up to the level that it should have. I’ve been talking about Oklahoma being a Top 10 state, and that momentum that we’re creating right now in Oklahoma has just been amazing. Just the confidence that we have now as a state and going and competing against Texas and winning projects. Competing against Tennessee and Florida and some of these other states. Even in our region, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas. We’re starting to be the flavor of the month and that’s what I’m really proud of—the confidence that we’ve created in Oklahoma.
FN: What do you wish to talk about that we haven’t already covered?
KS: I love talking about the freedoms that we have in Oklahoma, and I think it’s so important that everybody rises up and takes a stand. That’s what makes our country so unique is our freedoms. And I’m so afraid of the current administration dictating and mandating and taking away freedoms and personal responsibilities. People need to wake up and make sure that in the name of public safety, or public health, or majority viewpoint—if the majority of the people think one way, is it OK to force everybody else to think that way? I believe that our constitution protects the minority’s viewpoint, and I think it’s so dangerous for us to give up our freedoms for anything.
That’s what I talk to Oklahomans about and that’s what we believe here. But I just wish that more people would be talking about that nationally, and people standing up—that silent majority that Ronald Reagan talked about—and kind of pushing back on federal mandates and dictating what they think is best for all of our citizens. It’s a slippery slope, and it’s something that we all should be writing about, talking about, and encouraging Oklahomans to stand up and say, “No, that’s not what I believe.”
FN: Isn’t 2022 an excellent time to do that, with the mid-term elections and state elections across the country?
KS: 100 percent. I think we’re going to have a landslide in 2022.
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.