Beretta aban­dons Mary­land over gun law

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI AND VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

Cit­ing Mary­land’s re­cently en­acted firearm laws and the prospect of more re­stric­tions, the U.S. arm of leg­endary Ital­ian gun­maker Beretta an­nounced last week that it would move its man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions to Ten­nessee next year.

The move makes Beretta — a fam­ily-owned com­pany whose 1526 found­ing in Italy pre­dates the found­ing of the Colonies that be­came the United States — the lat­est maker of guns or am­mu­ni­tion to move all or part of its op­er­a­tions to another state be­cause of tight­ened gun con­trol laws.

Gen­eral Man­ager Jeff Cooper said an early ver­sion of a statute passed last year by the Mary­land state Se­nate would have pro­hib­ited the com­pany from man­u­fac­tur­ing or stor­ing prod­ucts in the state.

“While we were able in the Mary­land House of Del­e­gates to re­verse some of those ob­struc­tive pro­vi­sions, the pos­si­bil­ity that such re­stric­tions might be re­in­stated in the fu­ture leaves us very wor­ried about the wis­dom of main­tain­ing a firearm man­u­fac­tur­ing fac­tory in the state,” Mr. Cooper said.

A num­ber of states, es­pe­cially those that are con­ser­va­tive and gun-friendly, ap­proached the Ital­ian com­pany last year af­ter officials ex­pressed con­cern about strict gun laws in lib­eral-lean­ing Mary­land.

Mary­land and a num­ber of other states en­acted re­stric­tions on cer­tain mod­els of mil­i­tary-style, semi­au­to­matic weapons and am­mu­ni­tion magazine sizes in re­sponse to the Con­necti­cut school shoot­ings in De­cem­ber 2012 that killed 20 chil­dren and six ed­u­ca­tors.

Beretta isn’t the first firearms man­u­fac­turer to seek a friend­lier po­lit­i­cal cli­mate. Magpul In­dus­tries Corp., which makes firearms ac­ces­sories, an­nounced in Jan­uary that it would re­lo­cate from Erie, Colorado, to Texas and Wy­oming. Its move was a re­sponse to sweep­ing gun con­trol bills signed by Gov. John Hick­en­looper, a Demo­crat.

Another Colorado com­pany, HiViz Shoot­ing Sys­tems, re­vealed in May 2013 that it would move its op­er­a­tions from Fort Collins to Laramie, Wy­oming.

Con­necti­cut Gov. Dan Mal­loy, a Demo­crat, signed tougher gun con­trol leg­is­la­tion in April 2013, prompt­ing firearms man­u­fac­turer PTR In­dus­tries Inc. of Bris­tol to an­nounce a re­lo­ca­tion.

Colt Com­pe­ti­tion, which man­u­fac­tures high-end AR-15 ri­fles, an­nounced in April 2013 that it would move from Ore­gon to North Texas.

In Beretta’s case, the com­pany said it had no plans to re­lo­cate its of­fice, ad­min­is­tra­tive and ex­ec­u­tive sup­port func­tions from its fa­cil­ity in the Prince Ge­orge’s County com­mu­nity of Ac­co­keek.

Beretta orig­i­nally planned to use the Gal­latin, Ten­nessee, fa­cil­ity only for new equip­ment and pro­duc­tion of new prod­uct lines.

Beretta em­ploys some 400 peo­ple and ex­pects to cre­ate another 300 jobs at the Ten­nessee plant, slated for com­ple­tion in the mid­dle of next year. In­vest­ment in con­struc­tion and equip­ment is ex­pected to be $45 mil­lion.

“Beretta is one of the world’s great com­pa­nies, and its com­mit­ment to ex­cel­lence and Ten­nessee’s rich his­tory in man­u­fac­tur­ing make a great match,” Dave Smith, a spokesman for Ten­nessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a Repub­li­can, told The As­so­ci­ated Press in an email.

A spokesman for Prince Ge­orge’s County ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment about Beretta’s de­ci­sion but said the county would con­tinue to pur­sue busi­ness and job op­por­tu­ni­ties for all res­i­dents, in­clud­ing more than $4.3 bil­lion of devel­op­ment in the pipe­line.

“If there were any is­sues that the county could have ad­dressed to keep Beretta here, you can be sure that we would have ad­dressed them im­me­di­ately,” spokesman Scott Peter­son said.

A spokes­woman for Mary­land Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley also ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment but said “the com­mon­sense gun safety law we passed, which in­cludes li­censes for hand­gun pur­chases, is keep­ing schools, fam­i­lies and law en­force­ment per­son­nel safe.”

“We will keep in­vest­ing in schools, in­no­va­tion and in­fra­struc­ture so that we can con­tinue to cre­ate jobs and en­sure that our chil­dren have more op­por­tu­nity rather than less,” spokes­woman Nina Smith said.

Mr. Cooper said no em­ploy­ees in Mary­land would face changes for months and that the com­pany would have dis­cus­sions with those whose jobs might be af­fected.

The com­pany, which man­u­fac­tures firearms rang­ing from hunt­ing shot­guns to the M-9 pis­tol used by the U.S. armed forces, be­gan its search for a lo­ca­tion out­side Mary­land in March 2013.

The tran­si­tion to a new fa­cil­ity will not be­gin un­til next year, and pro­duc­tion of the U.S. mil­i­tary’s M-9 will con­tinue at the Ac­co­keek fa­cil­ity un­til all cur­rent or­ders are filled, the com­pany said.

Andrea Noble con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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