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Following the introduction of the SAFE Act in New York state, the Innovation Trail reporting team in conjunction with WNYC/New York Public Radio, has prepared a series of programs backgrounding the economic context for gun manufacture and retail in New York.

Millions in incentives go to firearms industry in New York state

Ryan Delaney/WRVO
WRVO News File Photo

As the nation has been focused on gun control since the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting, additional attention is now being paid to the incentives going to the gun industry in New York.

In a letter sent January 3 to Empire State Development President Kenneth Adams, state Sen. 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,” says Krueger.

She is referring to $5.5 million that went to Remington Arms in the last five years. The incentives to Remington in New York 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.

Every year, New York 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.

In fact, the $5.5 million that went to Remington and its parent company, Freedom Group, led to the consolidation of manufacturing plants in Massachusetts and Connecticut to Ilion, New York, where Remington has manufactured firearms for nearly 200 years.

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

Seward says 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. 

The company can still manufacture the banned guns in New York for export, but Seward says 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," says Seward. "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?'”

Politicians in Michigan, Texas, Oklahoma and South Carolina are reportedly all trying to convince Remington to relocate.

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 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. Otis makes gun-cleaning equipment.

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," says Krueger. "They have been rejected from grants because there wasn’t enough money for them.”

New York’s pension fund also invests in the firearms industry, holding shares worth $2.2 million in gunmaker Sturm, Ruger and Company.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced in January that the state would not be making further investments in gunmakers.

North Carolina-based Remington Arms has not announced whether it plans to move its manufacturing out of New York.

Matt Richmond comes to Binghamton's WSKG, a WRVO partner station in the Innovation Trail consortium, from South Sudan, where he worked as a stringer for Bloomberg, and freelanced for Radio France International, Voice of America, and German Press Agency dpa. He has worked with KQED in Los Angeles, Cape Times in Cape Town, South Africa, and served in the Peace Corps in Cameroon. Matt's masters in journalism is from the Annenberg School for Communication at USC.