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By BECKY BOHRER
JUNEAU — Alaska is making its pitch to woo a Colorado company that has threatened to leave that state over new restrictions on firearms.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper last week signed bills that require background checks for private and online gun sales and ban ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. Magpul Industries, which manufactures firearms accessories and ammunition magazines, said on its Facebook page that it would have "no choice" but to leave if the magazine bill was signed, causing an opening for states eager to prove they’re more gun-friendly, like Alaska.
Grassroots Facebook pages have popped up — some, before the Colorado bills were even signed — encouraging Magpul to settle in places like Alabama, West Virginia or Texas. Alaska state Rep. Tammie Wilson’s staff created a Facebook page, too, called "Magpul Industries - Alaska Wants You."
Jeremy McGowan, of Buckhannon, W.Va., said he started his Facebook page, "Bring Magpul to West Virginia," with "very little hope" of actually attracting Magpul. But he said he wanted at the very least to draw attention to the issues raised in Colorado and try to prevent something similar from happening in West Virginia.
"I don’t think we are a minority at all," he said. "I think a lot of us feel we have been pushed in a corner."
Phone, email and Facebook messages seeking comment from Magpul weren’t returned. On its Facebook page, two days before the bills were signed, the company said it would start its transition out of Colorado "almost immediately" if the ammunition bill became law.
"We will likely become a multi-state operation as a result of this move, and not all locations have been selected," the Facebook post, dated March 18, said. "We have made some initial contacts and evaluated a list of new potential locations for additional manufacturing and the new company headquarters, and we will begin talks with various state representatives in earnest if the Governor indeed signs this legislation."
A Hickenlooper spokesman declined comment Friday on efforts to woo Magpul. Hickenlooper told reporters after he signed the bills that state officials tried to ease Magpul’s concerns and craft the legislation so they could continue manufacturing in Colorado. He said "nothing in any of these laws" prohibits Magpul from continuing to operate in Colorado. "But that’s their decision," he said.
Alaska House Speaker Mike Chenault, in a letter to the president and CEO of Magpul this week, said he read "with shock and disdain" reports of the new laws on guns in Colorado. "Though many feel the actions taken by your state government were appropriate," he wrote, "we in Alaska do not."
Chenault, R-Nikiski, authored a resolution that passed the Alaska House on Thursday that encourages "threatened firearms and firearms accessories manufacturers" to consider Alaska as a place to do business. It is one of several measures proposed in the GOP-controlled Legislature this session dealing with gun rights and taking a stand against any perceived infringement on Second Amendment rights by the federal government. One, which a legislative attorney has labeled largely unconstitutional, would make new federal laws or regulations restricting the ownership of semiautomatic firearms or magazine of a firearm unenforceable.
"Alaska is the Great Land, and you are a great man for standing up for your business and doing what’s right for yourself and your workers," Chenault wrote. "Our state is open for business, so come on up and look around; we have a felling you’d like what you see."
Chenault cites, among other things, Alaska’s lack of a personal state income tax, low corporate taxes and "wealth of military installations." He also did some friendly ribbing, acknowledging the rival social media sites vying for Magpul’s attention.
"Just remember: they say everything is bigger in Texas, until they come to Alaska, where we have more than twice the area, and less big hair," he said.