Manufacturer threatens to leave Colorado if hi-cap magazine bill becomes law

Greg Campbell | Contributor

Now that Colorado lawmakers have moved a bill that would ban high-capacity magazines one step closer to becoming law, the state is one step closer to losing a company that manufactures those magazines, along with its 600 jobs and an estimated $85 million that it contributes to the state economy.

Magpul Industries, a Colorado company that makes 30-round magazines and other assault rifle components for military and law enforcement customers, has vowed to leave the state if Democratic lawmakers pass a bill outlawing its products.

House Democrats relied on their majority status to pass several pieces of controversial gun control legislation on to the Senate Monday. Among them is a ban on magazines that hold more than 15 rounds.

Magpul has taken to Twitter, Facebook and old-school print media in an all-out PR war against the bill, promising that if it becomes law, it’s leaving Colorado for a more gun-friendly state.

“We’re hearing some rumors that (Gov. John Hickenlooper) and the Dem caucus think we are bluffing,” the company wrote on its Facebook page late Sunday. “We’ve made our position very clear, very publicly. … If you pass this, we will leave, and you will own it.”

As of mid-afternoon Monday, the post had nearly 23,000 “likes,” more than 4,000 comments and was shared nearly 7,000 times.

Even though the original bill was amended to protect companies like Magpul from prosecution, the company has made clear that its business would suffer it if stayed.

The bill passed the House by a 34-31 vote, with three Democrats voting against it. Hickenlooper has said that he supports the bill and is expected to sign it if it passes the Senate.

Magpul said in a Facebook post that it’s prepared to move quickly, but that it would leave a small crew behind through the 2014 elections “so that we can remind folks why we are gone.”

The decision, the company said, is rooted in both principle and economics.

“Our relationship with our customers across the country would be severely damaged if this bill passes and we stay,” founder and CEO Richard Fitzgerald said in a press release. “We’ve already heard word of potential boycotts if that happens. [Legislators] really need to understand that our customer base is as passionate about freedoms as we are, and staying here if this bill passes would cripple the company. Make no doubt about it. We have no choice, and would be forced to leave in order to save the business.”

The company has also taken the message to print, buying a full-page ad in Sunday’s Denver Post, where it outlined what is at stake. Magpul directly employs 200 people and supports another 400 jobs in its supply chain. The company estimates that it contributes $85 million to Colorado’s economy.

Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. Marine, ran the company out of his basement when he founded it 10 years ago. Its customers include American and allied militaries, law enforcement agencies, sporting goods stores and private citizens.

Representatives from Magpul did not return messages Monday.

If social media comments are any indication, Magpul is winning where it counts with its customers — on the PR front. Comments are overwhelmingly in support of the decision, with many people suggesting places to relocate. There’s even a Facebook page called “Utah wants Magpul.”

Brandon Marshall, a program manager with the Wyoming Business Council said news that such a big company is looking to relocate has economic development managers in neighboring states salivating at the opportunity.

“I’m sure every state in the union has contacted them,” he said. As a business friendly state with a special affinity for gun rights, Wyoming “would be crazy not to be having those conversations,” he said.

Magpul’s threat to pull up stakes is a relatively new wrinkle in the gun debate here, first becoming public last week when the judiciary committee took testimony on the bill banning high-capacity magazines.

Democrats hold a slimmer majority in the Senate than in the House; Republican need only three Democratic defections to kill it.

But Republican Sen. Greg Brophy thinks that even the threat of losing jobs won’t be enough to sway Democrats.

“You would think it would be a really important component in the debate,” he said, “but these Democrats are extreme and I anticipate that they will line up and vote to run this business out of the state of Colorado.”

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