As NY Institutes New Gun Laws, Focus Shifts to Gun Industry Subsidies

An ad for a rifle manufactured by Remington, a company based in New York State that says it would be impacted by New York's new gun laws.

For the last five years, New York State has given $5.5 million to Remington Arms.

The money that went to Remington and its parent company, Freedom Group, led to the company focusing its manufacturing of firearms in the upstate community of Ilion, New York and closing its plants in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Every year, the state gives out millions in tax incentives, loans and economic development grants to the private sector. Every state does it, and New York has little choice if it wants to prevent companies from leaving. The incentives to Remington are among $19.9 million given by nine states to makers of assault weapons in the last decade and were revealed in a list compiled by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting.

In a letter sent January 3 to Empire State Development President Kenneth Adams, State Senator Liz Krueger urged an end to incentives for the firearms industry. 

“I’m still awaiting a formal letter of response, but I have been assured that this was a grant made in a previous administration, not in Gov. Cuomo’s administration, and the moneys that were committed have been spent,” Krueger said.

But others note that Remington has been manufacturing weapons in the state for nearly 200 years. And after the gun maker consolidated its manufacturing in Ilion, the town saw an increase in jobs.

“They were down to close to 600 jobs and now they’ve more than doubled that,” said Sen. Jim Seward, Ilion's representative in the legislature. “These are good manufacturing jobs and obviously we want them to stay.”

But as many as 40 of the guns manufactured in Ilion can no longer be sold to civilians in New York. The state’s new gun control law, known as the SAFE Act, bans semiautomatic weapons with certain design features deemed military-style, like detachable magazines or folding stocks. 

Seward says the company can still manufacture the banned guns in New York for export, but he believes cutting off Remington from future incentives would make it even harder to keep the operation in Ilion.

“I must point out that they are being constantly recruited by other states," Seward said. "And at some point, we hope this day does not come, but at some point, the company could say, 'hey, well why should we remain in a state that is perceived by many as being hostile to law-abiding gun ownership?'”

It’s not just Remington. Another manufacturer called Kimber, which makes guns that are not classified as assault weapons, received $700,000 from Empire State Development in 2009. And a Lewis County-based company called Otis Products, which makes gun-cleaning equipment, has received $2.2 million from the state and the local industrial development agency, according to a database compiled by the subsidy-tracking organization Good Jobs First.

In her letter to Empire State Development, Krueger didn’t specify between makers of military-style weapons and the rest of the industry. She says the state should prioritize other investments over gunmakers.

“There are large numbers of businesses who have applied for regional economic development grants, including from the same region that Remington is in," Krueger said. "They have been rejected from grants because there wasn’t enough money for them.”

This story is part of a series being produced by Innovation Trail.