Colorado

Gun Control Takes Toll On Outdoor Recreation Across Colorado

Policy

The recent gun control measures approved in Colorado have already taken a toll on local individuals, businesses, and  communities throughout the state. Those who work in the outdoor recreation industry, along with entire towns and counties that center around hunting and fishing, have been the first to experience the real economic effect of the new firearm regulations.

Tom Bowers is an outdoor recreation guide and the owner of Colorado’s High Lonesome Outfitter & Guides located in Yampa. Bowers shared with Media Trackers Colorado how the new gun legislation has already affected his business.

“Many of my hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and rafting clients are choosing to recreate in other states because of the new laws. Before the [gun control] legislation passed I got 15-30 calls from potential clients a day, now I get less than 5.”

Eric Layman with Western Colorado Outfitters in Montrose experienced the same drop off in business bookings, reservations, and correspondence as Bowers. After the gun control package cleared the legislature, “the phone calls and emails suddenly stopped. It’s hard to tell if the state is being boycotted if you don’t hear it from anyone directly,” Layman told Media Trackers Colorado.

Neither Bowers or Layman are isolated cases. As Media Trackers Colorado previously reported, Magpul Industries has also had to make plans to close its doors in Colorado and move elsewhere, taking with it a business that employed over 600 Coloradans and generated more than $85 million in taxable revenue for the state. Various shooting sports competitions have been cancelled and hunters have launched a Colorado boycott.

Layman confirmed this reality and added that, “my friend and neighbor was supposed to host the shooting event that was cancelled. That will really hurt the local hotels and restaurants also.”

“I’m thinking about sending the legislature a bill for lost business,” Layman concluded frankly.

In a normal year, Bowers and his High Lonesome Outfitters guide between 35 and 40 big game hunters. This year, he said he would be lucky to get 20-25. One big game client, whom he has served as a guide for 15 years, told Bowers that he will not be rebooking or coming back to Colorado. Bowers recalled the conversation with the client, who told him: “It is not because of you, it is because of your Governor. I am not giving any money to that state”.

Bowers’ clients who booked before the new laws still plan to come this season, but many of them have told him it will be the last time they come to Colorado for any kind of outdoor recreation, even beyond hunting.

As such, Bower’s losses are not limited to hunting, as he attests to the fact that many of the fisherman and rafters he guides will no longer be returning to Colorado to recreate either.  He explained:  “Now we are a gun control state. My type of clients think if they come to the state of Colorado they are going to be violating gun laws.”

Layman, from Western Colorado Outfitters, echoed the fact that the boycott is spreading far beyond the hunting crowd, saying that while “the hunter forums show comments indicating that the boycott is in full effect, even summer visitors and skiers are joining in.”

In an attempt to pick up his bookings for this year, Bowers recently lowered the retail cost of his services by a whopping 40 percent. Since he reduced the rates, Bowers has received a total of 20 emails. In previous years, he received between 75-130 emails during the same time frame — at normal prices.

Bowers finished by expressing his desire simply to stay in business. “If the trend continues I will be out of business within four years, which would mean losing my home and ranch as well.” Bowers said that he started his business twenty six years ago with “two horses and one saddle.”

The blow to the outdoor recreation industry will affect many businesses in Colorado. There are 10 counties across the state where the highest proportion of employment is related to hunting and fishing.

According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, “The shooting sports are so much more than simply pulling a trigger or releasing a bowstring. They represent financial opportunity for every American community, especially rural economies. Each purchase made by hunters sets off a chain reaction of economic benefits.”

Moreover, the losses will affect more than just local gas stations, restaurants, and hotels. The State of Colorado usually collects over $8 million in taxes from the hunting industry, while the federal government collects over $43 million in Colorado.

Exact losses to Colorado’s $1.8 billion dollar hunting and fishing industry will not be fully recognized until next year.

Follow Lee Hopper on Twitter: @hopper_lee