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Concerns grow at NY home of Remington guns

ILION -- 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.

"Remington is Ilion. Ilion is Remington," Mayor John Stephens said.

Residents in this blue-collar stretch of the Mohawk Valley are defending Remington after New York lawmakers banned the sale of semiautomatic 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 last week.

Chad Delmedico, who works on Remington's Model 700 bolt-action rifle, said it 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. Company officials did not respond to calls seeking comment, but locals say the factory employs about 1,200 people to produce Bushmaster, Marlin and H&R products.

Parts of the Remington Arms Co. factory date to the days when upstate New York was a manufacturing powerhouse. But factory jobs have become rarer along the Mohawk River, and Ilion, with about 8,000 residents, depends heavily on Remington Arms Co.

Stephens said he was disgusted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. But he is critical of the week-old New York law that bans assault-style rifles, calls for background checks on ammunition purchases and outlaws large-capacity magazines, among other measures.

He voiced a sentiment heard frequently in this largely conservative area: New York's law and the sweeping gun-regulation package proposed by President Barack Obama are wrongheaded.

At the bowling center near 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 resident Betty Watkins said the Second Amendment is being "pushed around and misused."

Bushmaster is owned by Freedom Group Inc., the largest firearms maker in the United States, which has its headquarters in North Carolina. No guns or ammunition are manufactured there.

In Ilion, the concern is the future of Remington. The company had said last March it could leave if the state went ahead with a move to add unique identifying information on spent bullet casings. That proposal is off the table but residents still wonder.

"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 Assemb. Marc Butler.

State & Region