ACCOKEEK, Md. (AP) - Beretta U.S.A. announced Tuesday that company concerns over a strict gun-control law enacted in Maryland last year have made it necessary to move its weapons making out of the state to Tennessee.
The well-known gun maker said it will move to a new production facility it is building in the Nashville suburb of Gallatin that is set to open in mid-2015.
Beretta general manager Jeff Cooper said that a sweeping gun-control measure that was passed last year initially contained provisions that would have prohibited the Italian gun maker from being able to produce, store or even import into Maryland the products that the company sells around the world. While the legislation was changed to remove some of those provisions, Cooper said the possibility that such restrictions could be reinstated left the company worried about maintaining a firearm-making factory in Maryland.
"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 product lines in their entirety to the new Tennessee facility," Cooper said in a news release announcing the move.
The company anticipates the plant in more gun-friendly Tennessee will involve a $45 million investment in building and equipment and employ about 300 people during the next five years. Beretta said it has no plans to relocate its office, administrative and executive support functions from Accokeek, Maryland.
"Beretta is one of the world's great companies, and its commitment to excellence and Tennessee's rich history in manufacturing make a great match," Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam's spokesman Dave Smith said in an email.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley pushed for the legislation last year in response to the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The law, which went into effect last fall, includes a ban on 45 assault weapons and a limit on gun magazines to 10 bullets. It also contains a variety of other provisions, including a licensing requirement for handgun purchasers to submit fingerprints to the state police.
"We're disappointed with this decision, but the common-sense gun safety law we passed, which includes licenses for handgun purchases, is keeping schools, communities and law enforcement personnel safe," said Nina Smith, an O'Malley spokeswoman.
Beretta has operated in Italy since 1526. The family-owned company makes a variety of firearms, ranging from hunting shotguns to pistols for the U.S. Armed Forces. Beretta started operations in Maryland in the late 1970s. The plant in Accokeek makes finished pistols from raw materials for the military, law enforcement, and civilian markets.
Beretta said the transition from Maryland to Tennessee will be managed so as not to disrupt deliveries to Beretta customers.
The company noted that production of the U.S. Armed Forces M9 9 mm Beretta pistol will continue at Accokeek until all current orders from the U.S. Armed Forces have been filled. Cooper said no Maryland employee will be impacted for many months, and the company will meet with employees to discuss their interest in taking a position in Tennessee.
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