September 1, 2014

Elyria
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Commissioner hoping to lure gun manufacturers to Lorain County

ELYRIA — Lorain County Commissioner Tom Williams is hoping to lure gun manufacturers in states that are enacting tougher gun laws to the county.

Williams

Williams is in the process of drafting letters he intends to send to Beretta, Magpul Industries and Remington Arms. Draft versions of the letters shared by Williams with The Chronicle-Telegram tout the business, manufacturing and labor benefits of relocating to Ohio and Lorain County.

“Our state and our region are blessed to have major advantages in tax structure, logistics and workforce,” Williams wrote in the draft letters.

He said he intends to get other public officials, both Democrats and fellow Republicans, to sign the letters as well.

All three arms manufacturers have had some criticism of bills in their home states that restrict guns. A national conversation on gun control followed the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School late last year, with many pushing for more stringent gun laws increasing background checks and regulating magazine capacity assault rifle-style guns.

Others have strongly opposed those efforts.

Beretta is being wooed by other states because of its criticism of a bill in Maryland that would ban assault weapons, limit magazine capacity and require those buying handguns to undergo a background check that includes submitting fingerprints. The company has a factory in Accokeek, Md.

Magpul officials have vowed to begin manufacturing magazines outside Colorado, where it has a factory about 30 miles north of Denver, in the wake of the passage of a bill that limits the sale of magazines that hold more than 15 rounds.

The new law allows high-capacity magazines still to be manufactured in Colorado, but they must be stamped with dates and serial numbers, something gunmakers contend is impractical and expensive.

Concerns were raised in New York that Remington Arms might abandon its Ilion, N.Y., factory after the New York Legislature passed an assault weapons ban, but the company has since told lawmakers there that it intends to invest $20 million in the factory.

There hasn’t been much traction for gun control reforms in Republican-dominated Columbus.

“Although we may not be considered the most conservative state, we are a state that has historically respected the 2nd Amendment,” Williams wrote in the draft letter.

Commissioners Ted Kalo and Lori Kokoski, both Democrats, said they have not yet read the letter, but they support the idea of bringing the companies here.

“They’re going to be built somewhere, so building them in Lorain County, Ohio, is fine by me,” Kalo said.

Kokoski said while she appreciates what Williams is trying to do, she’s not certain what, if any impact, sending letters to the companies will have. But she said it’s worth a try.

“If it happens, great, it brings more jobs to Lorain County, but it’s a shot in the dark,” Kokoski said.

Williams said the county routinely sends out letters designed to attract companies to the area. He said he’s been involved in sending similar letters to poultry and furniture companies in the past.

“My goal is to open it up and let them know what we have to offer here in Lorain County,” Williams said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.