Stephens, the mayor, 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 last week banning certain semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines and calling for background checks on ammunition purchases, among other measures. He dismisses the idea that there's an emotional link between Newtown and Ilion.
"Are people disappointed and distraught?" Stephens asked. "Do they feel bad and are they sad? Absolutely! Absolutely! I would never wish that on anyone, never. But as far as an emotional attachment between us and them, I don't see it."
Stephens voiced a sentiment heard frequently in this largely conservative area: New York's law and the sweeping gun regulation package proposed recently by President Barack Obama are wrongheaded.
The New York law, starting when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it Jan. 15, defined as illegal assault weapons semi-automatic rifles that accept detachable magazines and have one additional military-style feature such as a pistol grip, flash suppressor or bayonet mount. The old law required two such features.At the State Bowling Center next to the Remington factory, Rod Brown said the weapon that the Newtown gunman used could easily have been a Smith & Wesson or a Browning instead of a Bushmaster model. Kelley Holmes-Morton in her salon, Heads-R-Turning, said she is a National Rifle Association member who believes gun makers are not to blame. And Betty Watkins said as she pumped gas that the Second Amendment, about people's right to bear arms, is being "pushed around and misused." Robbi Breit at the Sellers Avenue consignment shop seemed more conflicted than others in Ilion but still feels that closing Remington won't end gun violence. "I cried my heart out" after Sandy Hook, she said. "I'm torn between both sides. But you can get another job. You can't get another kid."