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Helena Brown Is Coming for Your Gun (Manufacturer)

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Helena Brown

Is David Dewhurst taking his public relations ideas from Houston’s own Helena Brown?

Last Monday, Brown’s staff sent out an email whose subject line helpfully identified it as a public relations stunt, reading, “PR: Council Member Brown invites Beretta USA to Houston’s District A.”

“Under the misnomer—‘assault weapons’—” the email read, “Maryland legislators are banning handguns used commonly by average citizens and police departments.” (It didn’t specify why Maryland legislators would misname themselves “assault weapons.”)

“Now, proposed state regulations on gun manufacturers has [sic] Beretta considering relocation of its business to another state,” the release read, which is why “Council Member Helena Brown reached out to Beretta General Counsel Jeff Reh and extended a formal invitation to Beretta to consider moving its manufacturing facility to Houston’s District A.”

It’s unclear why Brown would approach the company’s general counsel about the move.

Then Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst decided to jump on the PR bandwagon last Friday. “I am not going to make any bones about it,” Dewhurst wrote. “I want to bring Beretta USA right here to Texas.”

His pitch, though similar to Brown’s by mentioning Texas’s low taxes, sounded a lot like a campaign speech. “In Texas, my job is to create jobs,” Dewhurst wrote. “I work in stride with state leaders who all want to deliver the framework for prosperity that allows for employers and employees to thrive.”

Dewhurst, of course, lost last year’s bruising Republican primary for U.S. Senate to emerging punchline Ted Cruz.

CM Brown inviting Beretta to move to District A is weird because her district in Northwest Houston is—while mixed-use like all of un-zoned Houston—a dense residential area with a largely settled and aging population. Beretta USA currently manufactures in Accokeek, Maryland, a town of 10,000, and employs about 300 people.

But Lt. Gov. Dewhurst inviting Beretta USA to Texas is weird because, well, everybody’s already done it. The Baltimore Sun noted on March 9 that at least seven other states have courted Maryland’s gun manufacturers, including “the governor of Texas, West Virginia’s House speaker and an Illinois congressman.”

Poor Brown and Dewhurst didn’t even make the list.

Emily DePrang joined The Texas Observer in 2011 as a staff writer covering criminal justice and public health. Before that, she was nonfiction editor of the Sonora Review. Before that, she was a waitress. She's also appeared in The Atlantic, Salon.com, and VICE. She holds an MFA in Nonfiction from the University of Arizona and has won some things, including the Public Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists (2012), the National Health Journalism Fellowship from USC Annenberg (2013), and a nomination for a National Magazine Award in Reporting (2014). She still sometimes thinks about waitressing.