ERIE, Colo. (AP) — Unnoticed amid dozens of tract homes in the Denver suburbs, a nondescript industrial building is suddenly in the middle of the gun control debate in Colorado.
The company, started in an ex-Marine's 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 has issued lawmakers an ultimatum potentially worth millions: Pass the bill, and the business will move.
It's a bold threat from a company that, by its founder's admission, has distanced itself from politics.
"The people who wrote the bill didn't even know we existed in the state," said Richard Fitzpatrick, the founder and president of the company, one of the country's 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 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 have already said they won't support the bill. But most Democrats are not budging.
"When you have the means available to you at every single corner to commit a horrendous act, we will continue to see what we've seen, which is the status quo, where unfortunately gun violence and violence in general is prevalent in our communities," said Democratic Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, who will be considering the magazine bill on Monday in the Judiciary Committee. The bill has already 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 their moving costs. The company won't 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.