Las Vegas Sun

November 25, 2014

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Gun maker expands to Nevada after ruling by California AG

A gun maker is expanding to Henderson amid criticism that the move is in response to a California order that it stop producing an unsafe pistol.

Jimenez Arms, based in Costa Mesa, Calif., has applied for a Henderson business license, listing its address as 1111 Mary Crest Road in an industrial park near Gibson Road and the Beltway.

Paul Jimenez, owner of the Jimenez Arms, said his company had planned the Nevada expansion before California officials ruled that one of the company's guns -- the JA-NINE 9 mm pistol -- was unsafe.

"All I have to say is that my move, it was planned for months and months," he said.

Jimenez said the small manufacturing effort in Henderson could have between five and 10 employees. While he declined to provide additional details about the planned Henderson operation or the reason for the expansion, Jimenez said, "Some of the reason is the regulations here in California."

Nevada officials have indicated that there is no legal roadblock preventing the gun maker from setting up shop here, despite the California findings.

"There's nothing preventing a business from moving into Nevada and setting up shop," said Tom Sargent, spokesman for the Nevada Attorney General's Office. "Whatever legal problems they have in California are in California."

Jimenez also disputes the California ruling that found the gun unsafe. He said that it appears California officials did not follow protocol in accepting third-party test results that led to the ruling.

"That's what I believe," Jimenez said.

Attorney Richard Ruggieri is an attorney representing Brandon Maxfield, a California teenager who was shot when a handgun manufactured by Bryco Arms malfunctioned.

Jimenez Arms was created last year when Jimenez purchased the assets of Bryco Arms in a Florida bankruptcy case for $510,000. Those assets included manufacturing equipment and the components for handguns. Jimenez was the former Bryco plant manager.

Ruggieri said Jimenez Arms is merely a successor company to Bryco.

Bryco declared bankruptcy in 2003 after a jury awarded Maxfield, who was shot when a Bryco handgun went off as it was being unloaded, $24 million from the company.

Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for the California Attorney General's Office, confirmed that the state had barred Jimenez Arms from producing the JA-NINE and also described the company as the "latest incarnation" of Bryco.

Barankin also said that Jimenez Arms is still able to make and sell its other guns in California and that the state's actions pertain only to the JA-NINE.

Jimenez denies that his company has any ties to Bryco or its former executives.

"There's no truth to that," he said. "Everything (relating to the sale) was in writing and everything was done on the up and up."

Ruggieri claimed that the money Jiminez used to buy the company was loaned by a Bryco executive. Jimenez said that assertion was slanderous.

Jimenez also questioned the tactics of a Ruggieri-led organization in conducting the California tests on the JA-NINE.

Ruggieri said an advocacy group he also represents, Brandon's Arms, commissioned the three safety tests accepted by the California Attorney General's Office in banning the handgun. Brandon's Arms unsuccessfully tried to buy Bryco's assets in the bankruptcy proceedings, losing out to Jimenez by $5,000. Brandon's Arms had said it would have sold off Bryco's manufacturing equipment and destroyed the components.

Jimenez said he believes that Ruggieri had several guns tested before getting the desired results.

"They purchased and purchased and purchased until they found one that failed," he said.

Ron Montoya, owner of American Shooters Supply in Las Vegas, was unfamiliar with Jimenez Arms, but he described Bryco's products as "sub-standard." He said the company sold guns that retail under $100. Comparable guns made to higher standards sell for at least $300.

Still, Ruggieri said it appears that the company is moving to Nevada to circumvent the California order.

"It certainly appears that they may be just packing up and moving to Nevada," Ruggieri said, adding that he has contacted Nevada lawmakers about devising a law preventing businesses from seeking haven in the state after an adverse ruling elsewhere.

"I would certainly propose that," he said. "It's something other for the world than 'What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.' "

Bob Cooper, Henderson economic development manager, emphasized that Jimenez Arms did not receive assistance from his office.

"We've never heard of them," Cooper said, adding that the department had received inquiries from City Hall about the company. "They never utilized our office."

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