Lawmakers are proposing, among other things, to limit firearm sales to one per person per month; to require background checks for anyone purchasing ammunition; and, most controversially, to require microstamping, a form of ballistics identification, for all semiautomatic pistols sold in New York State.
Microstamping has been an anathema to gunmakers. Colt has suggested that it might leave Connecticut if legislators there approved microstamping legislation, and, for years, Remington has strenuously opposed the measure in New York State.
A Remington executive, Stephen P. Jackson Jr., wrote to Mr. Cuomo earlier this year and said that the enactment of microstamping could force Remington “to reconsider its commitment to the New York market altogether, rather than spend the astronomical sums of money needed to completely reconfigure our manufacturing and assembly processes.”
In Ilion, Mr. Jackson’s threat was not taken lightly.
“If they have to spend a million bucks on that, they’ll move out where they don’t have to spend a million dollars,” said Steve Maley, who owns a custom jewelry and repair shop across the street from the Remington plant. As it is, he said, “New York State taxes are killing everybody.”
Another gunmaker, Kimber, which has a manufacturing plant in Yonkers, is also threatening to cut jobs at its factory if the Legislature approves microstamping. The company has said that passing such a law would create “little more than a false sense of achievement for our elected officials” while costing the state jobs and tax revenues.
And Remington and its competitors are not lacking suitors: in recent years, a number of states, including Alabama, Montana and South Dakota, have sought to persuade gunmakers in the Northeast and Midwest to move their plants to parts of the country with less restrictive gun laws, and, in many cases, a culture that is friendlier toward guns. (More: Why Fewer Americans Are Starting New Businesses.)
State Senator James L. Seward, a Republican whose district includes Ilion, said that passing new gun laws in Albany “would send a bad signal to this gun manufacturer that they’re in a state that’s hostile to gun ownership and gun manufacturing,” and that it could prompt the company to “go to a more hospitable state, no question.”
“It may make people feel good to think they’ve done something,” Mr. Seward added, “but at the end of the day, the criminal element and those that go out and do these horrible things, they’re going to get their weapons. And the cost could be great for a community like Ilion.”
Advocates of tighter gun laws are unsympathetic, accusing Remington and others of using the threat of layoffs to give themselves leverage against state lawmakers. The proposed microstamping law would require that the technology be used only on semiautomatic pistols sold to consumers in New York State, not all of the guns they make in the state.
“I think it’s ridiculous for them to argue that they would leave New York,” said Jackie Hilly, the executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, a group that wants microstamping. “Look, frankly, if we really want to keep jobs in New York, let’s invest more money in yogurt,” she added, referring to one of the state’s growing industries.
To residents, Ilion without Remington would be unimaginable. The Arms, as it is known, is the family business for many; both of Mr. Brown’s parents worked at the plant, and his wife works there, too.
“Three-quarters of the town probably worked there at one point,” said Tim Daly, who manages a bank branch in town and is a co-owner of a liquor store next to the plant. “You think of Ilion and Herkimer County, you think of Remington Arms.”