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Waste Watch: NY "Safe Act" has one costly price tag

Updated: Wednesday, July 10 2013, 03:19 PM EDT

Rochester, NY - New York’s “Safe Act” which bans assault weapons and tightens up controls, was passed quickly without a price tag attached.  

But, it may already be costing taxpayers plenty - akin to throwing away millions of dollars already spent, and throwing away the jobs lured with that money.

It is the subject of a 13WHAM Waste Watch investigation.

Remington Arms has called Ilion, New York home since before the civil war. 

1,300 people are employed making arms at the plant.  That economic impact stretches up the Thruway. 

At Jackson Guns and Ammo in Henrietta, New York, near Rochester, Remington models are top sellers.  “Remington products and the Bushmaster, the whole Freedom Group, they are 90 percent of our business,” says Kordell Jackson who owns the store.

Jackson had no problem when his state tax dollars and yours paid for $3 million dollars worth of renovations and new machinery at Remington in 2009, and another $2.5 million a year later which helped to move jobs from Connecticut to New York.  The jobs are directly related to the popularity of the Bushmaster and similar semi-automatic weapons.

But, then the Bushmaster was linked to the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut and two firefighters in Webster, New York.

Along came the New York “Safe Act.”  With a stroke of a pen, the tough new gun law generally bans assault weapons.  Tax subsidies now support a factory that manufactures many weapons taxpayers here cannot buy.

“I really don’t think they thought this thing through,” says Jackson.

“While protestors focus on the merits and problems of the hastily approved law, another fight is being waged more quietly inAlbany regarding Remington.  “Since we are trying to ban assault weapons, I don’t know why the State of New York would subsidize the sale of assault weapons,” said Democratic Senator Liz Krueger of New York City.

The upshot: Lawmakers used your tax dollars to move jobs to Ilion, but then passed legislation that could eliminate not only those jobs, but hundreds of others.  Five states are now reportedly courting Remington to move the Bushmaster line and it’s entire operation out of New York.

Asked about the 1,300 people who make guns for a living, Senator Krueger said, “We are not outlawing Remington.  All kinds of businesses in this state either get tax subsidies or don’t.”

Union workers say lawmakers are so closed to amending the gun law they had to take their message to Albany radio.  “I can tell you roll up the sidewalks, we’re done.  The impact is incredible,” said Frank “Rusty” Brown who is the chairman of the United Mine Workers, and who works at the plant.

That frustration is felt back in Henrietta.  “We’re not sure how it is going to impact us as a gun dealer,” says Jackson.  “I think when Remington moves, if they decide to move it’s going to be hard for us.”

At the federal level, tax dollars subsidize tobacco growers and the production of corn syrup while lawmakers pass legislation regulating cigarettes and junk food.  

Remington Arms did not respond to our requests for comment, but did tell a Utica newspaper it is “carefully evaluating its options.”

Even if it stays, it could shift production of the Bushmaster and other semi-automatic weapons away from New York, wiping out any job gains paid for by taxpayers.

“It’s not just us, the gun owners and dealers,” says Jackson.  “It impacts a lot of people, towns, villages and jobs.”

Waste Watch: NY "Safe Act" has one costly price tag

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