WASHINGTON - A senator in the crosshairs of the National Rifle Association called a gunmaker's excuse not to locate in West Virginia a cheap political shot.
Beretta said it would not expand into West Virginia because of Sen. Joe Manchin's, D-W.Va., support and work on a compromise bill requiring background checks on gun sales at shows and online. The company also said it would not expand its plant in Maryland where last month the nation's most restrictive gun laws was signed into law.
"I reached out to Beretta to encourage them to consider relocating to West Virginia from Maryland, a state that just signed into law some so the most restrictive gun laws in the country, and cited our great workforce and state's strong commitment to the 2nd Amendment," Manchin said. "Beretta decided to respond with a political letter and a disingenuous excuse that attempted to distort my common sense approach to requiring criminal and mental background checks at gun shows and online.
Manchin, a life-long member of the NRA who had an A-plus rating from the group, came into disfavor with the organization and gun activists after the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., where school kids were shot by a gunman. Manchin supported the background checks and worked with other senators on a compromise.
The NRA ran TV ads against Manchin. Manchin didn't back down and has ran ads, too.
"I believe that my legislation, which an independent poll just showed that 75 percent of West Virginians agree with, is a reasonable approach that in no way infringes on our right to bear arms," he said.
"It's shameful that Beretta, who seems to have no intention of moving from one of the most gun restrictive states in the country, is deceiving the great people of West Virginia in attempting to score a political point," Manchin said. "While I am a proud owner of two Beretta shotguns, I'm truly disappointed in this cheap political shot their management has taken."
Associated Press on Friday said Jeffrey Reh, general counsel and vice general manager for Beretta, cited comments from Manchin about high-capacity ammunition magazines and expanding buyer background checks to gun shows and Internet sales.
A week ago, Reh told Rhode Island lawmakers in a letter that Beretta considers the "consistency with which a given state has supported Second Amendment rights" in its decision-making process, whether cities have sued the firearms industry in a "misguided attempt to blame guns for the criminal misconduct of persons within their own jurisdiction" and by the vote of federal representatives on restricting gun ownership.