“Remington just announced they won’t offer the Bushmaster product anymore,” McGrady said, although the company has made no such public announcement. “Because they want to be politically correct.”
“But it wasn’t the gun,” the woman said with disbelief.
“That’s correct, ma’am,” McGrady responded before politely explaining that the gentleman next to her in the crowded store was ahead of her in line.
“Let me see that Bushmaster, please,” the man said as “White Christmas” played on the store’s sound system. As he inspected the rifle, McGrady informed customers that since the rampage in Newtown, Conn., demand for Bushmasters had gone up.
“That gun will pick up 25 percent before Christmastime,” he said. He saw a similar spike in sales after the 2008 election of Barack Obama, when gun owners feared that the government would pass tougher regulations. That panic settled, he said, when it became clear that the president had no intention of touching gun policy.
The Connecticut massacre has changed that. With Obama’s vow to pursue enhanced gun regulations, shares of publicly traded gun companies have plummeted, and retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods have announced that they will suspend sales of military-style rifles.
And there is perhaps no place in America that feels more under attack politically than this town of strip malls, car dealerships and shuttered downtown stores just below the Virginia border. Bushmaster, along with Remington, Panther Arms, Barnes Bullets and several other gun companies, belongs to a conglomerate called Freedom Group International, which is based here in Remington’s low-slung office building on Remington Drive.
On Tuesday, Cerberus Capital Management, a New York private equity firm, announced that it would sell its controlling interest in Freedom Group. A day earlier, the California teachers’ pension fund said it was reviewing its $500 million commitment to Cerberus as a result of its ownership of the highly profitable gun group.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Stars and Stripes and a green Remington company flag flew at half-staff in front of Remington headquarters. Behind glass doors bearing a sign that read “Unauthorized firearms prohibited,” an officer with the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office leafed through a hunting magazine under buck heads, a stuffed duck, men-in-the-wilderness paintings and frosted Christmas decorations. He said the company had requested added security.