CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The head of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce this week criticized the Italian-owned gun manufacturer Beretta USA, saying he found the company's comments about not locating in West Virginia because of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin's efforts to expand background checks for gun buyers "very troubling."
"Part of the reason I am reacting to this is that it looks like it was part of an effort to give West Virginia a black eye," said Steve Roberts, the chamber's president.
"Joe Manchin is one of the strongest Second Amendment supporters in the Senate. He represents the views of the vast majority of people in West Virginia in supporting background checks to make sure the wrong kinds of weapons don't end up in the hands of known criminals and potential terrorists," Roberts said.
Last Friday, Jeffrey Reh, a Beretta USA executive, criticized Manchin, D-W.Va., for his efforts to expand background checks for anyone who purchases a gun in legislation he co-sponsored with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
Reh said his company would not move or expand its operations into West Virginia because of Manchin's bill.
Roberts "found it surprising" that Beretta was announcing it would not come to the Mountain State last week, "particularly given that it was reported in 'The Baltimore Sun' in May that they would not be leaving Maryland. It appears they had already made that decision."
On May 24, the Baltimore Sun reported that "Beretta USA threatened to abandon its home on the Potomac if Maryland passed a strict new gun-control law, but after the law was signed the company announced that its operations would remain in Prince George's County for now."
The company employs 400 people at its Maryland facility.
Last week, Reh said that Beretta was considering a move to seven other states, but would not name those states.
Roberts said, "It also is surprising to me that a European-owned gun manufacturer would take a position like this in opposition to what 75 percent of West Virginians, who were polled, believe.
"It strikes me as very odd, and needs to be confronted in a diplomatic way, that a company that does business with the United States military is offering opinions based on facts that are not accurately presented," Roberts said.