A bit of a sad story to pass the time as we wait for election day to dawn, including a reminder about the fragility of traditions that we used to think would last forever. In the Mohawk Valley, located in upstate New York, there is a tiny town named Ilion. For just shy of 200 years, going back to 1828, the village has been the home of Remington Arms, among the oldest and most venerable firearms companies in the world. Stories about Ilion and Remington are always significant for me because I was born and raised in another village only ten miles away. I used to ride my bicycle past the Remington Arms plant on a regular basis. It was a bustling center of activity and nearly every family in the immediate area either had a relative who worked there or they knew plenty of friends who did. That’s basically come to an end now, though. Remington filed for bankruptcy for a second time recently and now they’ve been forced to sell off their operation in a piecemeal fashion. Some of the jobs may come back under a combination of new owners, but this is still the end of an era. (Associated Press)

Workers at the sprawling Remington factory in this upstate New York village took pride in a local gunmaking tradition stretching back to the days of flintlock rifles. Now they’re looking ahead with uncertainty…

Successful bidders for the idled plant in bankruptcy proceedings have said they plan to restart at least some production, though details remain scarce.

There are high hopes for a successful reload of the plant that dominates the local economy. But these hopes are tempered by questions about how many workers will come back, and when.

Given all of the stories we’ve covered here about surging gun sales around the country and stores that can’t even keep their shelves stocked, you may be wondering how an operation like Remington could be going out of business. It’s a fair question, but the answer is complicated. Remington’s demise in Ilion wasn’t caused by any problems with their products or a lack of demand. Their rifles and shotguns were always popular and their reputation was excellent. The demise of the operation wasn’t sudden, either. This had been coming for a very long time.

In the end, Remington Arms’ operation in Ilion was killed by a combination of politics and social justice activism. In recent decades, as New York turned more and more blue, advocates of strict gun control laws began to dominate Empire State politics. New laws were passed, some specifically targeting a few of Remington’s most popular brands like the Bushmaster AR-15. They were blamed by elected officials for all manner of tragedies caused by criminals who may have been brandishing their firearms.

Finally, the owners grew fed up. They pointed to the hypocrisy of the state welcoming all of the jobs and prosperity Remington created while simultaneously going on television and essentially labeling them as war criminals. In 2014, Remington announced that they were moving two of their major production lines to Huntsville, Alabama. Other moves were expected to follow. The people and elected officials of Alabama were ready to welcome Remington with open arms, seeing a tremendous boost to their economy on the horizon. And they weren’t going to bad-mouth them in the media.

At the same time, Remington was being endlessly hounded by the frivolous lawsuits brought by families of the victims of the tragedy at Sandy Hook. The company was constantly running up endless legal fees defending itself. The badgering was relentless, even as the plaintiffs lost one court action after another. From the beginning, their only goal appeared to be to shut Remington down through their actions. They weren’t the only driver of these events, but they definitely contributed to it, so I suppose their attackers from Connecticut have gotten their wish, at least in part.

This is a sad day in the history of Ilion and the entire region, really. There was a time when Remington Arms employed many thousands of people. Multiple generations of families had breadwinners who worked there, raising their own children in ways to prepare them to work there as well. By last year the number of employees was down to 600. And now the doors are closed. Prospects for other lines of work in that valley are few, particularly during the pandemic, so this is going to hit them hard. But at this point, there’s simply nothing to be done.