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What Happens to a Gun Town When the Gun Factory Moves Out?

Eliphalet Remington built his first rifle barrel more than 200 years ago, painstakingly crafting it in his father’s forge in upstate New York. At that point, ammunition was round, the British were the bad guys and gun control involved forearm strength.

About a decade later, Remington moved his operation to just beside the newly opened Erie Canal. Remington Arms became a force in Ilion, N.Y., west of Albany, producing weapons used by cops, robbers, soldiers and the public. But as generations passed, global competition and economics eroded Remington’s bottom line and its presence in the village, whose Main Street stops at its factory gates.

That road reached a dead end in late November when the privately held company announced it would relocate its remaining Ilion operations to Georgia, amid suggestions from company leaders — and some Republican elected officials — that New York’s efforts to stem gun violence had driven away a beloved local institution.

The move meant the loss of jobs for more than 300 employees, many of whom had made guns by hand for decades, and whose personal and civic identity was deeply tied to Remington. A decade ago, Remington had more than 1,000 employees at the Ilion factory.

“Two hundred and eight years of history. Gone, gone,” said John P. Stephens, the village’s mayor, adding, “Ilion is Remington. Remington is Ilion.”

Mayor John P. Stephens said the company was synonymous with the village, whose residents made its wares by hand.Credit…Cindy Schultz for The New York Times
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