POLITICS

Neighbors woo gunmaker Beretta as Maryland tightens laws

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Photo - BRIDGEPORT, CT - DECEMBER 22:  A woman holds a Beretta pistol at a gun buyback event at the Bridgeport Police Department's Community Services Division on December 22, 2012 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
BRIDGEPORT, CT - DECEMBER 22: A woman holds a Beretta pistol at a gun buyback event at the Bridgeport Police Department's Community Services Division on December 22, 2012 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michal Conger

As Maryland gets ready to pass strict gun laws that would ban assault weapons, gunmaker Beretta has said it may move to a more gun-friendly state. Now neighboring West Virginia is wooing the gun maker, located in Accokeek, Md., and its approximately 300 jobs.

On Thursday, West West Virginia House Speaker Rick Thompson wrote Beretta suggesting his state is the most suitable destination for the company’s relocation.

“As you may be aware, West Virginia has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the country, only behind Alaska, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming,” Thompson wrote.  “This combined with the state’s long support of the Second Amendment and our close proximity to your current headquarters, makes us an excellent choice for Beretta USA in your relocation efforts.”

Thompson also assured the gun maker West Virginia will not support a gun control law like the one poised to pass Maryland’s legislature.

But Thompson faces competition from Virginia, Businessweek reports. Earlier this week, Virginia Republican lieutenant governor candidate and investment company executive Pete Snyder wrote to Beretta as well, noting his state’s friendly tax and gun climate. Snyder promised the company, whcih has a facility in Fredericksburg, “would be welcomed with open arms in all parts of the Commonwealth.”

Earlier this month, Jeff Reh, general counsel for Beretta, told the Maryland legislature his company has poured resources into the state, but the new laws — which would ban some of Beretta’s products — could drive the company and its tax dollars elsewhere.

“That commitment is not one-sided, though, and deserves the respect of a corresponding commitment from the local community and from the state Government,” he said. “Instead, we are confronted with a state government that wants to ban our products at a time, by the way, when numerous other state governments are courting our investment. It is worth noting that these other states also do not try to blame a product for human misconduct.”

Reh likened the gun ban to a book ban, saying both would be unconstitutional.

“From a constitutional point of view, we see SB 281 as tantamount to a legislative  effort to ban certain books,” he said. “That might seem like a provocative statement but the parallels are apt. The possession and use of firearms and printed materials are both protected by the Constitution.”

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