The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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March 1, 2013

Thompson tries to lure gun maker to West Virginia

CHARLESTON — As long as he is at the helm, House Speaker Rick Thompson says gun manufacturers needn’t fear any restrictive new laws, such as the one in Maryland prompting Beretta USA to shop around for a new home.

A ban on so-called “assault weapons” moving through the Maryland General Assembly would render some of Beretta’s products unlawful in that state.

For that reason, Thompson rolled out the welcome mat to the company.

“If you are seriously considering moving your headquarters to another location, it would be in your best interest to take a look at West Virginia,” Thompson, D-Wayne, said in a letter to Beretta USA’s executive vice president, Franco Beretta.

Thompson is certainly no stranger to firearms.

Once an MP in the Army, he is a long-time hunter who has consistently supported the rights of West Virginia gun owners.

Thompson assured the Beretta executive that the West Virginia Legislature would never support a law such as the one under consideration in Maryland.

“As you may be aware, West Virginia has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the country, only behind Alaska, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming,” the speaker said.

“This, combined with the state’s long support of the Second Amendment and our close proximity to your current headquarters, makes us an excellent choice for Beretta USA in your relocation efforts.”

Thompson told the company it would find “a wealth of opportunity to expand and grow” in a state “where the people understand and care about your industry.”

As pressure mounts in the nation’s capital to impose new restrictions on gun ownership, many lawmakers in West Virginia are moving to shore up individual safeguards.

One bill by Delegate Josh Nelson, R-Boone, would take a bold step in forbidding any government entity in the state from enforcing new gun laws coming out of Washington, making it a felony to do so.

Majority Leader Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, seeks to raise the number of states that recognize a West Virginia concealed pistol/revolver permit. Legislation offered by Delegate Ryan Ferns, D-Ohio, would permit the lawful transport and storage of a firearm in a personal vehicle while accessing public areas.

Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, wants to allow parents with a concealed permit to be able to enter school property with the firearms in their vehicles. Another concealed proposal, advanced by Delegate Gary Howell, R-Mineral, would let holders of such permits bring firearms locked in vehicles on the Capitol complex.

In a missive to members in the state, the National Rifle Association said, “The Mountaineer State has continued its rich tradition of supporting your Second Amendment rights and hunting and shooting traditions through the introduction of multiple pro-gun bills during its 2013 legislative session.”

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