Dec. 10, 2010: Bushmaster Firearms International announces it plans to close its assembly plant in Windham, effective the following March 31.

Founded in 1973, the company employs 73 workers in Maine at the time of the announcement.

Bushmaster’s parent company, North Carolina-based Freedom Group Inc., says in a news release that the Windham staff will get comprehensive severance packages and help finding new jobs. The parent organization will keep the Bushmaster name and transfer manufacturing to plants elsewhere.

The following June, former Bushmaster owner Richard Dyke and other investors announce a plan to reopen the Windham site and manufacture rifles there under the name Windham Weaponry. Their enterprise expects to hire back about half of the 73 people who lost their jobs in the closure.

The New York City private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management acquired Bushmaster from Dyke in 2006 for $70 million. Bushmaster and three other weapons makers were placed under Freedom Group, which Cerberus owns.

On Dec. 14, 2012, a man armed with a .223 AR-15 rifle, which Bushmaster manufactured, uses the gun to kill six adults and twenty small children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The following week, Cerberus puts the Freedom Group up for sale.

In 2014, the families of nine of the 26 Newtown shooting victims file a lawsuit against the manufacturer, Bushmaster; the distributor, Camfour; and Riverview Gun Sales, the East Windsor, Connecticut, seller of the rifle, contending that the guns are for military use and are not designed for hunting or home defense. After court challenges, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in November 2019 that the Newtown families’ lawsuit may proceed.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

This story was revised at 9:05 p.m. on Dec. 11, 2020, to correct the date of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012.


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