Beretta USA is threatening to leave Maryland over new gun control proposals, the Washington Post reports, and they would take hundreds of jobs along with them.
“Why expand in a place where the people who built the gun couldn’t buy it?” Jeffrey Reh, general counsel for Beretta, asked.
The Washington Post explains:
Beretta, the nearly 500-year-old family-owned company that made one of James Bond’s firearms, has already invested more than $1 million in the [civilian version of a machine gun designed for special operations forces] and has planned to expand its plant further in Prince George’s County to ramp up production.
But under an assault-weapons ban that advanced late last week in the Maryland General Assembly, experts say the gun would be illegal in the state where it is produced.
Now Beretta is weighing whether the rifle line, and perhaps the company itself, should stay in a place increasingly hostile toward its products. Its iconic 9mm pistol — carried by every U.S. soldier and scores of police departments — would also be banned with its high capacity, 13-bullet magazine.
In testimony this month in Annapolis, Reh, who oversees the plant, warned lawmakers to consider carefully the company’s future. Reh pointed to the last time Maryland ratcheted up gun restrictions in the 1990s: Beretta responded by moving its warehouse operation to Virginia.
“I think they thought we were bluffing” in the 1990s, Reh said. “But Berettas don’t bluff.” [Emphasis added]
Lawmakers are justifiably concerned that Beretta– which won a contract in 1985 to produce the standard sidearm for all U.S. military personnel and has shipped more than half a million guns to the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines, according to the Washington Post– will leave its well-known home in Maryland.
“I think they’re going to move,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) commented. “They sell guns across the world and in every state in the union — to places a lot more friendly to the company than this state.”
The Washington Post continues:
“We literally are part of the arsenal of democracy,” said Reh, sweeping his hand toward the production floor, where on a recent afternoon more than 1,000 of the military version of the pistol sat in various stages of assembly. “That’s why we consider this so insulting.”
To fulfill the contract, Beretta expanded the plant by the length of a football field, installed an underground shooting range and hired 500 people. By 1990, during the peak of the first Gulf War, the company was the second-largest employer in Southern Maryland and had a supply chain of contractors that employed hundreds more.
The assault-weapons ban isn’t the only part of the governor’s bill Beretta dislikes.
In Maryland, gun manufacturers are required to register as firearms dealers, which some say could expose the company to lawsuits for selling and shipping weapons as dealers do. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which passed the governor’s bill 7 to 4 late Thursday, spelled out an exemption for Beretta and a handful of other smaller manufacturers in the state.
But the company said it is still not clear how it would handle warranty and repair issues for its many lines of guns, which are also serviced in Accokeek. The bill does not specify if the company could charge to fix guns that would be deemed illegal for sale, or if it could legally ship them back to their owners. Lawmakers said intermediary gun dealers would likely have to facilitate the transactions. [Emphasis added]
Some lawmakers are expressing confidence that they can strike a deal with Beretta, keeping the jobs the company provides while also enacting stricter gun control measures. And if possible, Beretta likely doesn’t want to relocate at their own expense.
But according to the Washington Post, the company’s Italian “patriarch” Ugo Gussalli Beretta expressed a lack of confidence in the state.
“All I can tell you is, there always seems to be a problem with Maryland,” he reportedly said.
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