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Perry responds to critics of visit to DC-area gun manufacturer

Responding to criticism that he appeared insensitive to the victims of the Washington Navy Yard massacre, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that he visited a nearby Maryland gun manufacturer on Wednesday because the company feels “under attack” by the state’s gun control legislation.

Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry tours the Beretta USA facility in Maryland and talks about the message he is sending to businesses across the U.S. Wednesday, saying "if you want to live free from over-taxation … move to Texas."

Perry, who has launched an aggressive tour to lure businesses to his home state, has been slammed by gun control advocates for touring Beretta USA – located in Accokeek, MD, about 20 miles away from the Navy Yard – just 48 hours after the shooting that left 13 dead.

“There’s always anti-gun individuals at any time,” Perry said Wednesday when asked about the criticism of his visit. “The fact is, I’m a pro-Second Amendment guy. Texas is a pro-Second Amendment state. And Beretta has been a great manufacture in Maryland and they feel not only under-appreciated, they feel under attack.”

Beretta USA threatened to move its operations earlier this year after Maryland passed an assault weapons ban, although the company ultimately decided to stay in the state for now.

"The idea now of investing additional funds in Maryland and thus rewarding a Government that has insulted our customers and our products is offensive to us so we will take steps to evaluate such investments in other States," the company said in May.

An aide told NBC News that the meeting with Beretta executives, which was closed to press, was scheduled well before the Navy Yard shooting.

“As part of his longtime job creation and economic development efforts, the governor has been reaching out to firearm manufacturers across the country this year to tout the advantages of doing business in Texas, and this private meeting was planned long before this week’s tragedy,” said Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed.

Perry, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination in 2012, has been visiting and airing ads in Maryland along with other states led by Democratic governors, accusing them of suffocating economic growth with harsh regulations.

He told reporters that his visits are intended to create a dialogue about the difference between “red state versus blue state policies.”  

“If you want to live free, free from over-taxation and free from over-regulation and free from over-litigation,  a place that’s got a great skilled workforce, move to Texas,” he said.

He has announced that he will not seek re-election in Texas but has not yet indicated whether he will attempt another presidential run.