Beretta to stay in Maryland, at least for now

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Gun-maker Beretta has decided to stay in Maryland for now despite tough new restrictions on firearms signed into law by Gov. Martin O'Malley, but the manufacturer says it will continue to look into moving to other states.

Officials in Texas, West Virginia and Illinois have written to Beretta executives in hopes to woo the gun giant to their states. Beretta Holdings owns three companies in Maryland and employs about 300 people at its Accockeek plant.

Maryland's law -- which makes it illegal to purchase assault weapons and ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 bullets after Oct. 1 -- affects many of the firearms and accessories Beretta manufactures. Lawmakers amended O'Malley's bill at Beretta's request to allow gun manufacturers to continue to make, sell, possess and transport banned items. But the company still issued a statement calling the law "offensive."

"Prior to introduction of this legislation the three Beretta Holding companies located in Maryland were experiencing growth in revenues and jobs and had begun expansion plans in factory and other operations," the company said in a statement. "The idea now of investing additional funds in Maryland and thus rewarding a government that has insulted our customers and our products is offensive to us so we will take steps to evaluate such investments in other states."

Beretta first threatened to leave in February. It said it would continue current "necessary operations" in Maryland, citing a desire to continue providing weapons to the U.S. Armed Forces and other important customers. The company said it would not go forward in a way that would hurt its Maryland employees.

Beretta manufactures the M9 9mm semi-automatic pistol for the U.S. military, as well as a civilian variation. The handgun's 15-round magazine is illegal under Maryland's law.

The gun-maker also took issue with the law's requirement that Marylanders be fingerprinted before being allowed to make new handgun purchases, saying there was no proof the requirement would reduce crime.

A spokesman for Beretta declined further comment.

The National Rifle Association has threatened to challenge the constitutionality of Maryland's law in court.

A Montgomery County group is working to put the law's fate on the 2014 ballot. Free State Petitions, headed by Sue Payne, is collecting signatures to put the law on referendum. If the group is successful, the law wouldn't go into effect until after the 2014 election, if voters uphold it. An NRA spokeswoman said the group will file its lawsuit once the law goes into effect.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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Andy Brownfield

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner