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Residents rally behind job-creating weapons manufacturer
Question of the Day
ILION, N.Y. — Not everyone here works at the Remington factory, but everyone knows someone who does. The big brick complex looms above the rooftops of the modest wood-frame homes. And Ilion can look more like a factory with a village than a village with a factory.
Little wonder that residents in this blue-collar stretch of the Mohawk Valley are defending Remington after New York lawmakers banned the sale of semi-automatic assault-style rifles such as the Bushmaster weapon made here. The move came after the weapon was linked to gunmen in the Connecticut school shootings and in the Christmas Eve slayings of two firefighters in western New York.
“It’s the person that pulls the trigger. I don’t care what kind of gun it is,” Tom Bradle, a Remington employee, said as he walked back to the factory from lunch break on a chilly, gray day last week.
Remington has been intertwined with Ilion since shortly after Eliphalet Remington crafted a flintlock rifle on his father’s forge in 1816. Even the elementary school shares the company’s name. Company officials did not respond to calls seeking comment, but locals say the factory employs about 1,200 and also produces Bushmaster, Marlin and H&R products.
Parts of the Remington Arms Co. factory, with its imposing four-story front of brick and old-style, multipaned windows, date back to the days when upstate New York was a manufacturing powerhouse. But factory jobs have become rarer in the string of modest towns along the Mohawk River, and Ilion, with about 8,000 residents, depends heavily on Remington Arms Co.
Mr. Stephens, a burly man with a walrus mustache, was disgusted by the news last month of 20 first-graders and six adults killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. But he is critical of the New York state law approved this week that bans assault-style rifles, calls for background checks on ammunition purchases and outlaws large-capacity magazines, among other measures.
He also voiced a sentiment heard frequently in this largely conservative area: New York’s law and the sweeping gun-regulation package proposed by President Obama on Wednesday are wrongheaded.
At the State Bowling Center next to the factory, Rod Brown said the weapon that gunman Adam Lanza used in Connecticut could have easily been a Smith & Wesson or a Browning.
Kelley Holmes-Morton in her salon, Heads-R-Turning, said she is an NRA member who believes gun-makers are not to blame. And Betty Watkins said as she pumped gas that the Second Amendment is being “pushed around and misused.”
“I look at it differently,” said Jamie Rudwall, a union official who has worked at the plant since 1995. He’s also the father of a second-grader.
“I think of Anheuser-Busch, I think of Ford tires, I think of Tylenol,” he said, citing other major brands that have been blamed for tragedies as varied as drunken driving deaths and poisonings. “It doesn’t matter what age it is. Terrible things happen.”
Bushmaster is owned by Freedom Group Inc., the largest firearms-maker in the U.S., which has its headquarters on Remington Drive outside the neighboring small towns of Madison and Mayodan, N.C.
The company had said in March it could leave New York if the state went ahead with a move to add unique identifying information on spent bullet casings. That proposal is off the table but people here now wonder where things stand in the wake of the new state law, which does not affect Remington’s ability to manufacture assault-style weapons here.
“If I’m an executive at Remington, what’s my attitude going to be toward the state that bans one of the premier products that I produce?” asked local Assembly member Marc Butler.
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