Beretta says it won't relocate to W.Va., cites Manchin as reason
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Maryland-based firearm manufacturer Beretta USA will not relocate its operations to West Virginia, company officials said, despite courting from state lawmakers and municipalities around the state.
Beretta's general counsel Jeffrey Reh blamed Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., for the company's decision.
In a letter to the Hardy County Rural Development Authority, Reh wrote that Beretta analyzed each state that offered the company a new home to determine its stance on Second Amendment rights.
"As a consequence of that analysis and especially due to Senator Manchin's recent legislative choices we have decided not to consider your State for our future plans of expansion," he wrote.
"We know that anti-gun sentiments are not shared by everyone within your State but we are looking first and foremost for a widespread and stable place of political support in any potential location."
Manchin, D-W.Va., along with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., co-authored a measure to expand background check requirements and close the so-called "gun show loophole."
Although federal laws require licensed gun dealers to perform background checks, whether at brick-and-mortar stores or gun shows, there currently is no such requirement for unlicensed private dealers, who could sell guns from their home, out of the back of a pick-up truck as well as at gun shows, alongside licensed dealers.
Reh, speaking to the Daily Mail on Friday, said the Manchin-Toomey bill would have "blocked sales throughout the country at traditional chain stores and retail outlets."
He said the bill would have given priority to background checks performed at gun shows, which happen every weekend around the country. That could flood the background check system, causing problems for customers who are waiting to purchase a firearm elsewhere.
"It meant somebody's going into a Cabela's or a Bass Pro Shop would have to wait," he said. "That was a practical issue with it."
Reh also said Beretta was concerned that, after the December massacre in Newtown, Conn., Manchin aligned himself with Sen. Chuck Schumer, "one of the most anti-gun senators in the history of the country."
"The fact that he had portrayed himself as a traditional pro-Second Amendment politician before and appeared to switch so quickly...is what caused me to second guess the credibility of his convictions," Reh said.
Beretta announced in February it was considering moving its operations elsewhere, after the Maryland General Assembly began considering an assault weapons ban.
West Virginia lawmakers soon began courting the gun maker. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Rick Thompson, who was then Speaker of the House of Delegates, sent a letter to Beretta.
Speaker Tim Miley, who was then House Judiciary Chairman, urged Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to also reach out to the company.
"As we both know, the citizens of this great state overwhelmingly support the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms," Miley said in his letter to Tomblin.
Reh said he knows West Virginia is a pro-gun state, but Manchin's actions are "an issue that we couldn't ignore."