Earlier today, I linked to a Christian Science Monitor report that the firearms industry had begun to organize in opposition to the recent push for increased gun control, but that the major manufacturers had not yet committed themselves. That situation has changed, reports the Washington Post, at least in Maryland, where Beretta makes it home — at least for now. The company has begun considering a relocation of its headquarters to a state where its product hasn’t been made illegal, and may take hundreds of jobs with them:
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 machine 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.
“Why expand in a place where the people who built the gun couldn’t buy it?” said Jeffrey Reh, general counsel for Beretta.
On the line: at least 300 jobs in Maryland’s Prince George County. That’s enough to worry even Governor Martin O’Malley’s Democratic allies in the state legislature. The Post’s Aaron Davis gets the president of the state Senate, Thomas Miller, to admit that he’s “concerned” about a possible move to “places a lot more friendly to the company than this state.” In the lower chamber, the Democrat representing the district, Del. Joseph Vallario, told the Post that “we want to keep those jobs.” Vallario’s chairing the chamber’s Judiciary Committee, so he has some influence on that outcome, but so far the bill doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
Beretta general counsel Jeffrey Reh reminded the legislature that Beretta once moved a significant facility to Virginia the last time the state tried this, and that the next time might be the last:
“I think they thought we were bluffing” in the 1990s, Reh said. “But Berettas don’t bluff.”
For obvious reasons, Beretta would like to stay put. Moving any kind of business costs money, and manufacturing more than most, and the disruption to production will be considerable. Given the history of hostility toward guns and gun manufacturing by the state’s political class, though, it might end up being costlier to stay than to leave. Reh told the Post that the Italian owner recently visited the facility, and when briefed on the law, told Reh, “There always seems to be a problem with Maryland.”
No company will put up with that forever, and few would stay in a state where most of their product line couldn’t be sold.