WASHINGTON - Gun-maker Beretta says it is moving its manufacturing from Maryland to Tennessee.
The company announced the move Tuesday saying the possibility that future laws in Maryland could restrict its ability to manufacture, store, or import products the company sells to Maryland made it unwise to remain in the state.
About 160 positions will be moving to Tennessee, the company says.
Beretta says its new manufacturing site in Gallatin, Tennessee, won't be ready until 2015 and manufacturing will continue in Maryland until then.
Administrative and executive support offices will remain in Accokeek.
In a statement, Beretta says affected workers will have the opportunity to work for the company in Tennessee.
The new, $45 million facility in Tennessee will employ 300 workers during the next five years. Construction hasn't begun yet and the building won't be ready until mid 2015.
The company, which is headquartered in Prince George's County, previously planned to use the new facility to produce only new products.
But legislative changes proposed in 2013 prompted the company to rethink the long-term wisdom of remaining in Prince George's County.
"Politics was the only factor. We have been in Accokeek, Maryland, since 1977," says Beretta board of directors member Jeff Reh. "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."
In a statement from the Prince George's County Executive office, officials expressed disappointment that Beretta is moving manufacturing out of Prince George's County.
"We are disappointed to learn that Beretta will be moving their manufacturing out of Prince George's County. 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," said Scott Peterson, spokesperson for Prince George's County. "We work very hard to retain all existing businesses in the County, but the loss of this company will not deter us from continuing the incredible economic development successes that we have had over the past three years."
Language considered in the Maryland Senate "would have prohibited Beretta U.S.A. from being able to manufacture, store or even import into the State products that we sell to customers throughout the United States and around the world," the company said in a statement. "The possibility that such restrictions might be reinstated in the future leaves us very worried about the wisdom of maintaining a firearm manufacturing factory in the state."
In the wake of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, Gov. Martin O'Malley proposed a series of gun law changes including a ban on certain assault-style weapons and new licensing requirements. They passed the Maryland General Assembly largely intact.
Maryland has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Now the law is facing a legal challenge.
Tuesday, lawyers argued before a federal judge in Baltimore over whether the suit seeking to overturn the law should be allowed to continue.
- Berretta: Gun law forcing move out of Maryland
- Unhappy about new limits, gun makers urged to move
- Report: Md. among states with toughest gun laws
- Md. gun law debated in federal court
© 2014 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.