"In a county of 860,000 people, 300 jobs by themselves don't measurably move the needle," said David Iannucci, an economic development adviser to Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker. "But 300 manufacturing jobs in the rural tier of Prince George's County, they are significant."
Reh said the legislation, though modified in the Senate, would ban the importation of the magazines used in an M9 Pistol that Beretta has manufactured in Accokeek since 1987 for the U.S. Army. Without the magazines, Reh said, Beretta could not assemble or test the pistols in Maryland, requiring the company to move at least that part of its operations.
The O'Malley administration disagrees with Beretta's interpretation of what the bill does, but said Friday that it would offer an amendment to make clear that the company would still be able to manufacture all its firearms.
"Every job is important, and we want to keep jobs here in Maryland," O'Malley said. "I think Beretta is still able to sell all its products."
Several Prince George's senators said the economic impact of losing Beretta did not weigh heavily as they considered the broader legislation that also aims at preventing straw purchases of handguns and tightening restrictions preventing some people with mental illnesses from buying guns.
"I didn't really look at it in terms of an economic development issue," said Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters, a Democrat and chair of the county's Senate delegation. "It was an issue of keeping firearms away from people who shouldn't have them. There's always going to be secondary effects of legislation, and they're going to have to make a business decision."
Sen. Victor Ramirez, also a Democrat, said he thought the county offered Beretta a great site and that he hadn't heard any complaints from the company until this legislation. "I think that's the risk that you take," he said. "The payoff is that we hope that we prevent tragedies from happening."
The House Judiciary Committee will consider the proposal next. Chairman Joseph Vallario said he "absolutely" takes seriously the threat of losing hundreds manufacturing jobs in a rural area.
"I am extremely concerned," said Vallario, a Democrat whose district also includes Accokeek. "I taking into consideration everything — the fact that they have been a company that has produced jobs and income and taxes for a great number years in the state of Maryland. We do not want to lose them."