Citizens Hold Gun Company’s Owner Accountable

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In the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown, CT, the nation’s attention has keyed in on details of that horrible event: the victims, including their names, ages, and accounts of the lives they led;  the suspect, including speculation about his motivation and mental instability; and of course, the weapons — a Glock 10mm handgun, Sig Sauer 9mm handgun, and a .223 caliber Bushmaster AR 15 rifle. The last of the three, an assault weapon by federal definition, has inspired some to look past the object, past its North Carolina-based manufacturer, Bushmaster, to Bushmaster’s owner, Freedom Group; then a step further to the Park Avenue-based Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm that created and is a majority stakeholder in Freedom Group.

On Monday, a spokesman for the California State Teachers’ Retirement System – which has $750 million invested with Cerberus – told Reuters:

“At this point our investment branch is examining the Cerberus investment to determine how best to move forward given the tragic events of last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut…”

Hours later, Cerberus released a statement of their plan to “immediately engage in a formal process to sell” their interest in Freedom Group, saying:

“As a firm, we are investors, not statesmen or policy makers. Our role is to make investments on behalf of our clients who are comprised of the pension plans of firemen, teachers, policemen and other municipal workers and unions, endowments, and other institutions and individuals. It is not our role to take positions, or attempt to shape or influence the gun control policy debate.  That is the job of our federal and state legislators.”

A dedicated group of concerned citizens do not believe that Cerberus’ decision to sell their majority stake in Freedom Group absolves them of responsibility. On Wednesday, they met outside the Upper East Side townhouse of billionaire Stephen Feinberg, the 52-year-old owner and CEO of Cerberus Capital Management. There they held a vigil and expressed their desire not only for federal and state action to address the deadly use of firearms, but also corporate accountability and dialogue from those responsible for their existence.

Jessica Wang, producer/editor; Cameron Hickey, camera

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