Firm says it will move if Colo. passes gun bill

Erie-based Magpul says bill ‘will do nothing’

Workers assemble 30-round-capacity ammunition magazines for high-velocity rifles at Magpul Industriesí plant in Erie. Magpul founder and President Richard Fitzpatrick has threatened to pull his company out of Colorado if state lawmakers pass a bill restricting the size of ammunition magazines. Enlarge photo

Brennan Linsley/Associated Press

Workers assemble 30-round-capacity ammunition magazines for high-velocity rifles at Magpul Industriesí plant in Erie. Magpul founder and President Richard Fitzpatrick has threatened to pull his company out of Colorado if state lawmakers pass a bill restricting the size of ammunition magazines.

ERIE Ė Unnoticed amid dozens of tract homes in the Denver suburbs, a nondescript industrial building suddenly is in the middle of the gun-control debate in Colorado.

The company housed there, started in an ex-Marineís basement in 1999, is in a standoff with Colorado Democrats who want to restrict the size of ammunition magazines after mass shootings in a suburban Denver movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school. Magpul Industries has issued lawmakers an ultimatum potentially worth millions: Pass the bill, and the business will move.

Itís a bold threat from a company that, by its founderís admission, has distanced itself from politics.

ďThe people who wrote the bill didnít even know we existed in the state,Ē said Richard Fitzpatrick, founder and president of the company, one of the countryís largest producers of magazines and other firearm accessories for gun enthusiasts, law enforcement and the military.

The warning from Erie-based Magpul underscores the political pressures Democrats are weighing as they advance the strictest gun-control measures lawmakers have ever considered in a state that still prides itself on its frontier spirit. Other gun-control proposals include universal background checks, a ban on concealed firearms on campuses and holding assault-weapon sellers and owners liable for shootings.

Opponents need only three Democrats in the Senate to vote no against the magazine proposal to defeat it, and two already have said they wonít support the bill. But most Democrats are not budging.

ďWhen you have the means available to you at every single corner to commit a horrendous act, we will continue to see what weíve seen, which is the status quo, where, unfortunately, gun violence and violence in general is prevalent in our communities,Ē said Democratic Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, who will be considering the magazine bill Monday in the Judiciary Committee.

The bill already has passed the House, and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has promised to sign it.

The bill would make it a crime to have magazines that can carry more than 15 rounds, with a stricter limit of eight for shotguns. People who own larger magazines now would be allowed to keep them.

As the debate unfolds, states have made overtures to Magpul, including offering to pay its moving costs. The company wonít name the states, but Wyoming and Texas have expressed interest in netting the $85 million the company projects it will spend in Colorado next year in payments to suppliers, subcontractors and service providers.

Magpul said the move would also impact its 200 employees, plus an additional 400 who work for suppliers and subcontractors.

ďItís not so much, ĎOh, these people are making something thatís going to cost Colorado lives.í We truly believe this bill will do nothing. Itís a feel-good measure,Ē Fitzpatrick said. ďBut these (workers) will be directly affected.Ē

Fitzpatrick said the billís requirement that all magazines have serial numbers adds enough production costs to make it worth leaving. He also said smaller magazines easily can be connected to each other, and the company fears it would legally liable if people were to do that.

Democrats have tried to ease Magpulís fears, amending the bill to make clear that the company can still manufacture magazines of any size, as long as theyíre sold only out of state, to the military or law enforcement.

Republicans who oppose the restrictions argue Democrats are sending mixed messages about gun control to keep a company in Colorado.

ďItís being hypocritical. These things are either bad or theyíre not,Ē said Republican Rep. Brian DelGrosso.

Magpul argues that limiting magazine sizes will not reduce gun violence, and that criminals will find ways around laws, including going to other states to buy larger magazines. Magpul officials note that some of their products sometimes end up in California, which limits magazine sizes to 10 rounds.

ďThe solutions that people want to bring up are hardware solutions,Ē said Magpul Director Duane Liptak. ďAnd they want to talk about this physical piece of equipment thatís not inherently evil. Itís not inherently good. Itís a tool like anything else. It can be used for good, and it can be used improperly by people who have evil in their hearts.Ē

Supporters of the proposals say Magpul is bluffing and that a move would prove too costly.

ďI donít think Magpul is about to pull out,Ē said Bill Hoover, 83, whose grandson AJ Boik was among the 12 killed in the theater shooting. ďItís going to cost them a bundle of money.Ē

Fitzpatrick said his company is serious.

ďItís not really a threat. Itís a promise,Ē he said.

Sens. Lois Tochtrop and Cheri Jahn are the two Democrats voting against the bill. Both say they donít believe it addresses the main problem Ė mental health Ė and Tochtrop also cited Magpulís potential departure.

ďI think we really need to address that problem. Look at the cause, not the tool,Ē Tochtrop said.

Magpul argues that limiting magazine sizes will not reduce gun violence, and that criminals will find ways around laws, including going to other states to buy larger magazines. Magpul officials note that some of their products sometimes end up in California, which limits magazine sizes to 10 rounds.

ďThe solutions that people want to bring up are hardware solutions,Ē said Magpul Director Duane Liptak. ďAnd they want to talk about this physical piece of equipment thatís not inherently evil. Itís not inherently good. Itís a tool like anything else. It can be used for good, and it can be used improperly by people who have evil in their hearts.Ē

Supporters of the proposals say Magpul is bluffing and that a move would prove too costly.

ďI donít think Magpul is about to pull out,Ē said Bill Hoover, 83, whose grandson AJ Boik was among the 12 killed in the theater shooting. ďItís going to cost them a bundle of money.Ē

Fitzpatrick said his company is serious.

ďItís not really a threat. Itís a promise,Ē he said.

Sens. Lois Tochtrop and Cheri Jahn are the two Democrats voting against the bill. Both say they donít believe it addresses the main problem Ė mental health Ė and Tochtrop also cited Magpulís potential departure.

ďI think we really need to address that problem. Look at the cause, not the tool,Ē Tochtrop said.