“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.”
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.”
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.
No guns or ammunition are manufactured there. Most people around know the 43,000-square-foot building near the high school and the Walmart as the home of Remington Arms, which moved to the site in the mid-1990s, and not the weapons conglomerate Freedom Group has become, said Mayodan Town Manager Michael Brandt.
“They're not big contributors to the community like a typical large company would be in an area,” Brandt said. “This is where they're located but we don't really see much of them.”
Word that Freedom Group is for sale and changes are looming has generated little local concern in an area where surviving textile producers and a Miller-Coors brewery are bigger employers, said Sharon Chirichella, who runs a temporary staffing agency and is an officer with the local chamber of commerce.
That contrasts with Ilion, where the concern among people is the future of Remington. The company had said last 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 Assemblyman Marc Butler.
Obama's gun-control proposal added more uncertainty. Rudwall, president of the United Mine Workers of America Local 717, said he expected the gun business to increase in the short term amid new regulatory proposals, but he worries about jobs in Ilion long term.
“We've been here almost 200 years. I hope to be here another 200,” Rudwall said.