Testimony in Opposition of Maryland Senate Bill 281

3/1/2013


Darren Mellors — Executive Vice-President LWRC International

815 Chesapeake Drive

Cambridge, MD 21601


My name is Darren Mellors, Executive-Vice President of LWRC International. LWRCI manufacturers rifles in Cambridge MD in Dorchester County. Our customers are the U.S. Government, law enforcement agencies nationwide, and allied governments that are sanctioned by the U.S. Department of State. We also sell a line of commercial products to qualified law abiding U.S. and Maryland citizens, until recently in all 50 states. I am in the unique position to offer factual testimony to this legislature on behalf of the 300 families that depend on us for skilled employment; the various contractors that provide services and products for LWRCI; and the law abiding citizens of MD who are being vilified by your proposed legislation. Vilified may sound to be a strong word, but infringing on the rights of select group of citizens in response to the illegal, evil acts of a deranged individual or career violent criminals is the very definition of the word.


I also represent my mentor; the owner of LWRCI and consummate entrepreneur Mr. Richard Bernstein. He not only started LWRCI, but many other successful ventures in MD that have created an estimated 3000 jobs over the last 40 years by estimation of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. His record of job creation on the eastern shore of MD is second only to Mr. Frank Purdue. It was his influence and presence that made Salisbury MD the center of Microwave Filter Technology manufacturing for the world with such companies as K&L Microwave, and Lorch Microwave. Other companies he started and led are BAI Aerosystems, Salisbury Pewter, Matech (Machining Technologies). Additionally, he's developed significant commercial real estate projects on the eastern shore.

Mr. Bernstein is also very active in our MD community being a large contributor to Salisbury University, and the founder of the Bernstein Achievement Award for Excellence awarded annually to students demonstrating entrepreneurial excellence in business. He has an endowed chair at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and sits on the Board at Washington College. He has been given entrepreneurial, and community service awards, locally, nationally, and internationally. His entire ethos is focused creating jobs and building value in a company through local people, most starting from small ventures.

An important factor in Mr. Bernsteinís legacy is that his contributions were made in the most economically distressed area of Maryland. The median income levels, the unemployment rates and the number of people living below the poverty level are extreme in comparison to the more populated areas in Central Maryland. So to have created an estimated 3000 jobs, attracted millions in commercial investment and to have influence all three Eastern Shore Colleges demonstrates Mr. Bernstein's commitment to a workforce and community in a large area that is underserved.

Facing these 20 gun bills, he is now put in a position to abandon his home, many of his MD employees and his proud legacy to move his ventures to a state that does not ask that productive member of society fall on a sword as a scapegoat for inaction by its government against the prosecution of criminals for gun crimes. There is also apparent malaise by the government to addressing serious mental health care deficits in MD and an apparent disregard of its citizenís Constitutional rights under the second amendment.

To understand the consequences of passing this legislation, you must know what is at  stake. LWRCI's rate of job creation over the past 7 months has been approximately 10 new jobs per month. The number of direct employees who will lose their jobs as a result of relocation exceeds 300, with a workforce that lives in five distressed Maryland Counties. This does not take into account the subcontractors we use in Maryland who will lose revenue when LWRC leaves the state.

What does losing 300 jobs mean to these distressed counties? The entire Eastern Shore of Maryland (nine counties) has a population that is less than Anne Arundel County. Our workforce resides in five counties that combined have a total population of 251K and these counties cover 1962 square miles. To make a comparison, Anne Arundel County — our nearest, non-Eastern Shore county — has 544K population and covers 414 square miles. Losing 300 jobs in the five counties our workforce lives in, would render the same impact as Anne Arundel County losing 648 jobs. — only Anne Arundel County is a region where residents have access to jobs and higher populations in surrounding counties. Our workforce doesn't have that luxury. They come from the regions with the highest unemployment — two of our counties, Dorchester and Worcester ranked #1 and #2 in unemployment (16% and 10.6%) for the entire State of Maryland in 2012.

The direct jobs that would be lost if LWRC was move out of state belong to the least of your Maryland brothers and sisters. These are people and communities that have access to very few resources, who can't simply drive to another county to find another job.

LWRCI will bring in excess of $130 million dollars into Maryland this year. This money is put to work in Dorchester County, one the most economically distressed Counties in MD, and the money is spread throughout the state through subcontract work to Maryland businesses, the purchase of capital equipment and technical services, the rental of properties, contracting construction for expansion, employee's payroll dollars and corporate taxes. The millions of dollars we bring from outside of MD into the state do more to stimulate the economy than any scheme legislators or members of the State and Federal executive branches ever could.

We have invested every dollar back into expansion and growth. We invest in our employees, training them in high tech skills like machining, programming, drafting and other skilled jobs. We use the Maryland institutes of higher education offering tuition reimbursement to our employees. Our goal from the first day of operations was to expand and build something of value, not take annual dividends. We have invested in Maryland, our communities, and its people.

In Feb of 2012 LWRCI signed a $109 million dollar 18 month contract with the Government of Saudi Arabia, sanctioned by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Congress. This is the largest direct commercial to foreign government sale of firearms in the history of the ATF Exports Branch. $109 million dollars of foreign money coming into Maryland to a company that is five years old. In these economic times, this is a story that the Department of Business and Economic Development can be very proud of. New jobs; developing a workforce; and stimulating the economy.

We are successful because we offer and innovative product that is the best in the world. We have been awarded more than nine U.S. Patents in the past five years, and have as many pending.

Like our colleagues from Beretta, LWRCI is Maryland success story that this legislature and the Governor should be proud of. Success in these uncertain economic times should be celebrated and encouraged. While the U.S. manufactures fewer and fewer products, and U.S. exports to the world dwindle, the world still looks to the U.S. to secure its people and their countries borders with American firearms under the direction and supervision of the U.S. Department of State. We supply rifles to DOD, DOJ, DOC, DHHS, and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency to name a few federal agencies. We have supplied hundreds of local and state law enforcement agencies rifles to protect our law officers and the public they serve. Countless U.S. citizens buy our commercial rifles for the same reasons our government and international customers do. For sport or defense, people want and have the right to own the safest, highest quality product they can get. We have a noble job that we are proud of and take very seriously.

Our company success, and the success of our employees should be celebrated as a model to economic growth and civic responsibility. Instead manufacturers and our industry are vilified with the introduction of this legislation to ban cosmetic features of a certain type of rifle. Modern rifles are functionally no different or more dangerous than any other firearm. If you think they are, you need to educate yourself, and not by watching the latest Die Hard movie or Piers Morgan.

We already work in the most highly regulated industry in America. There are more than 20,000 domestic laws relating to firearms. As a company we are diligent to follow them to the letter of the law. Yet the Maryland Legislature, whom have already passed some of most extensive state firearms regulations in the union are attempting to pass further non-sensical laws that will do nothing to improve public safety.

Instead, these laws punish law-abiding citizens, and strip them of their rights. This law will push firearms into the black market to felons and criminals on to the streets as it did in Canada, the UK and Australia. Law-abiding citizens are faced with deciding whether to comply with an unconstitutional law or be labeled felons. Once passed, citizens with no legal method of disposing of these firearms will invariably create a black market with off the books sales with no checks, balances or regulations. Maryland seems doomed to repeat mistakes of the past while ignoring the core issues.

Our representatives should be alarmed with the fact that current firearms regulations are not enforced or prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Prince Georges and Baltimore City have some of the worst violent crime in the country despite having severely restrictive firearms regulations. Criminals responsible for gun crime should be brought to justice with the full veracity of our courts and laws. Criminal recidivism is common and encouraged by the lack of serious consequences to those who commit crimes with firearms, or obtain them illegally. Despite all of this crime concentrated in densely populated urban centers, gun violence in America in general is at a level lower than it was during the 10 years of the 1994 Federal ìAssault Weapons Banî and close to levels not seen since the 1960's.

The Connecticut judicial system, legislators, an ineffectual gun ban, a broken mental health system and law enforcement did not prevent a deranged and disturbed individual from taking the lives of innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary. The rifle found at Sandy Hook was already banned in that state. Our MD legislators are looking to do more of the same with political fanfare about improving public safety.

As parents, as citizens, we demand our government address the real issues, and protect our children and us. Not vilify it citizens by stripping them of their rights to put on a political show. We ask you address the real issues of crime control and comprehensive care for the mentally ill.

When the MD Department of Transportation buys our product to protect bridges and infrastructure from terrorism, the State refers to them ìpatrol rifles.î When a law abiding MD resident buys a rifle after filling out no less than 3 state and federal forms, including an Authorization to release Mental Health medical records, the state calls them "assault rifles." They are simply rifles. Rifles made to be ergonomic, made of lightweight materials, made to be safe to shoot, made to be accurate. Not expressly made to "assault" anybody.

By the end of this hearing, you will all understand that by-product category, these firearms rarely used in crime. I can give you my own LWRCI statistic to add to the other statistics you will hear. We have shipped over 60,000 rifles to qualified buyers, and not once in 5 years we have been in business has an ATF trace been associated with an LWRCI product being used in a crime.

I came here to share this information on behalf of many Marylanders. We are asking ourselves a question everyday. Is it intent of this legislation to cause a mass exodus of law abiding citizens and productive companies? These citizens and companies will be forced to leave either on moral grounds, business grounds or both. These are the same people that are the core of civic responsibility and contribution to our community and state and its economy. How can LWRCI stay in MD and produce rifles, pay taxes, create jobs, and stimulate the economy when its government intends to restrict the rights of its own citizens? Aside from the moral issue, the citizens of this country would not forgive the hypocrisy of LWRCI staying despite passage of this legislation.

The legislation as written seems to be window dressing for political gain by a few in the face of ineffective crime control. The real issues of public safety as they relate to gun violence go largely unanswered. The MD government is making it clear through its actions with this legislation that we, nor Beretta nor other firearms manufacturers are welcome in MD. It sends the message that this is not the State to expand in.

This legislation also sends a clear message to MD citizens that wish to exercise their rights under the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution; that they are no longer

welcome in MD. For criminals, it will be business as usual. As such, if this unconstitutional ban passes as written, we will comply with your wishes and move our companies out of Maryland along with as many employees and their families that wish to go.

Respectfully,

Darren Mellors

Executive-Vice President

LWRC International, LLC

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