By MICHAEL HILL
ILION, N.Y. (AP) â¿¿ The big brick Remington gun factory pieces together military-style rifles in a state that has just banned their sale after a string of mass shootings led to a national outcry over civilian ownership of them.
Residents of Ilion see the issue far differently: The gun factory is a major local employer and a source of pride for almost two centuries.
As Mayor John Stephens put it, "Remington is Ilion. Ilion is Remington."
Little wonder that residents in this blue-collar stretch of the Mohawk Valley are defending Remington after state lawmakers banned the sale of semi-automatic rifles like the Bushmaster weapon made there. The move came after the weapon was linked to gunmen in the deadly Connecticut school shooting and in the Christmas Eve slayings of two firefighters in western New York.
Remington employee Tom Bradle said don't blame the guns in mass shootings, blame the shooters.
"It's the person that pulls the trigger. I don't care what kind of gun it is," Bradle said as he walked back to the factory from lunch break on a chilly, gray day recently.
Chad Delmedico, who works on Remington's Model 700 bolt-action rifle, said it more simply: "We have a bum rap."
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 people and 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, multi-paned 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.