Blaming Maryland’s new gun-control laws, Beretta USA said Tuesday that it is relocating its manufacturing operations from Accokeek to Tennessee, a move that will eliminate about 160 jobs in southern Prince George’s County.
The Italian company had disclosed a $45 million plan this year to expand operations to a new factory near Nashville. But Beretta has decided to go beyond that plan because, a senior executive said, the company is “very worried about the wisdom of maintaining a firearm manufacturing factory” in Maryland.
Maryland’s new gun restrictions, pushed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., bans 45 types of assault rifles and put in place tough fingerprint, photo identification and training requirements. Magazines are limited to 10 rounds.
A version of the legislation that passed the state Senate “would have prohibited Beretta USA 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.
Jeff Reh, a spokesman for Beretta USA, said in an interview that executives had become increasingly worried that future legislative sessions could end more “disastrously” for the company. “We wanted to control our own destiny,” he said.
State and local officials expressed dismay about the move.
Nina Smith, a spokeswoman for O’Malley, said, “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.”
In Prince George’s County, Scott Peterson, a spokesman for County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), said: “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.”
Beretta, which produces handguns, shotguns and semiautomatic rifles at its Maryland factory, said production will not be shifted to the new plant until 2015. The company said it expects to hire about 300 employees there during the next five years.
In testimony against the gun legislation, a company official said the three companies in Accokeek that are part of Beretta’s global operations employ about 400 people. There is “probably not a family in Southern Maryland that has not benefited positively from the income or insurance benefits provided to the thousands of people who have worked for these Beretta companies over the years,” the official said.
Reh, the Beretta USA spokesman, said that company officials had spoken with affected employees about the decision and that they took the news “pretty well.”
Beretta hopes to accommodate those who want to move. Reh said some workers, also upset about Maryland’s new gun laws, had already expressed interest in moving to the new factory. Beretta is not moving its administrative offices to Tennessee; they will remain in Maryland.
Arelis Hernandez and Jenna Johnson contributed to this report.