On Tuesday, Beretta U.S.A. Corp announced that it would be uprooting its manufacturing capabilities in Accokeek, Maryland, and moving them to a new facility in Gallatin, Tennessee, by mid-2015.
The decision to move the facility which employs upwards of 160 people came down to one thing and one thing only: the state’s new gun-control law passed in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
“Politics was the only factor. We have been in Accokeek, Maryland, since 1977,” Beretta board of directors member Jeff Reh, told WTOP.
“We would have been thrilled to stay in Maryland … but the the anti-gun political climate just got to the point where we didn’t think it was prudent from a business point of view to stay here,” he continued.
Beretta feared that The Firearms Safety Act of 2013, signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley in May of that year would prohibit them from being able to manufacture, store or import into the state firearms and accessories that Beretta sells across the U.S. and around the world.
One could certainly argue that their concerns weren’t overblown, as the Firearms Safety Act of 2013 bans so-called ‘assault’ weapons (including the AR-15), further limits magazine capacity to 10 rounds (down from 20), and requires licensing, fingerprinting, and safety training for handgun purchases, among other stringent provisions.
Executives at Beretta tried to convince state lawmakers to ease restrictions, and while they made a little headway, the fear that harsher laws would one day be enacted was too much of a risk to take, explained Jeff Cooper, general manager for Beretta, in a press release.
“While we had originally planned to use the Tennessee facility for new equipment and for production of new product lines only, we have decided that it is more prudent from the point of view of our future welfare to move the Maryland production lines in their entirety to the new Tennessee facility,” Cooper added.
As far as it relates to Beretta’s military contracts, the company stated that the M9 pistols will continued to be manufactured at the Maryland facility until all of the orders from the U.S. Armed forces have been completed.
“We have not yet begun groundbreaking on the Tennessee facility and we do not anticipate that that building will be completed until the middle part of 2015,” said Cooper. “That timing, combined with our need to plan an orderly transition of production from one facility to the other so that our delivery obligations to customers are not disrupted, means that no Beretta U.S.A. Maryland employee will be impacted by this news for many months.”
With the 2015 timetable, Beretta wanted to make sure that its current employees had a chance to plan their future and decide whether they would like to make the transition to Tennessee.
The Tennessee enterprise will include a $45 million investment and around 300 jobs over the next five years, an economic boost that Maryland will lose out on.
“We are disappointed to learn that Beretta will be moving their manufacturing out of Prince George’s County,” Scott Peterson, spokesperson for Prince George’s County, the current home of Beretta’s manufacturing.
“They have been a County business and employer for almost 40 years. 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,” he added, noting that the county worked hard to keep Beretta in the Free State.
Meanwhile, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association, was quick to point out the economic costs associated with taking an anti-gun position.
“Trampling on the Second Amendment by banning the most popular rifle and ordinary sized magazines knowing full well that it will not make Maryland communities safer is not without economic consequences,” said Lawrence Keane, the NSSF’s Senior Vice President, Assistant Secretary & General Counsel.
However, Ladd Everitt from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence applauded Maryland for not fully capitulating to Beretta’s demands to rewrite the law.
“Kudos to Maryland for standing up to Beretta’s ridiculous intimidation campaign,” Everitt said in an email to GunsAmerica. ” The laws enacted in Maryland will save many lives and make neighborhood across that state safer. If Beretta is committed to selling military-style firearms to anyone—no matter their criminal or mental health history—then they can take their business elsewhere.”
Yet, perhaps there is a chance that Beretta’s manufacturing might one day return to Maryland. That is because the company has no plans to relocate its office, administrative and executive support functions from Maryland.
As one can see by the July 7, 2013, video below, transitioning out of Maryland was something that was in the works for some time: