A new law, if it should come, is still far off. In the business world, however, there was action Tuesday. Cerberus Capital Management, a huge investor in the gun industry, said it would sell its marquee gun company. Also, Dick’s Sporting Goods promised to stop selling “modern sporting rifles,” at least temporarily.
All of that would have seemed impossible a week ago, before a man with a semiautomatic rifle killed 20 students and six adults Friday at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Suddenly, the debate over guns took on more ferocity. Now, even some allies of the gun industry say that weapons like those of the Connecticut shooter were looking a little less necessary.
“I don’t need a 25-round clip for effective home defense, and I sure don’t need one for hunting,” Rep. Martin Heinrich (D), a newly elected senator from New Mexico who had “A” ratings from the NRA, told a local newspaper. “That’s just too much killing power. It defies common sense.”
The NRA, which had been silent since the tragedy, released a statement Tuesday saying it had refrained from commenting out of respect for the Newtown families but is “prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” The organization said it will hold a news conference Friday in Washington.
On Tuesday, the fourth day since the massacre, its aftermath played out as two widely different stories.
In Newtown, it was another day for burying children. At St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, there were back-to-back funerals for James Mattioli and Jessica Rekos. Both were 6 years old.
Outside of Newtown, the tragedy seemed to have affected the country’s financial and political establishments in a way that other mass shootings had not.
Both began to focus on the weapon that gunman Adam Lanza apparently used for most of his killing. It was a .223-caliber Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle, which traces its origin to the M-16 assault rifle designed for U.S. troops in Vietnam.
The company that manufactures Bushmaster rifles, Freedom Group Inc., had been funded and assembled by Cerberus. After the shootings, Cerberus came under pressure from one of its own major investors: the California State Teachers’ Retirement System.
Late Monday, Cerberus sided with the teachers. The firm announced Tuesday it will sell its stake in Freedom Group, the nation’s largest gun manufacturer.
“It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level,” Cerberus said in a statement. “It is not our role to take positions, or attempt to shape or influence the gun control policy debate. . . . There are, however, actions that we as a firm can take.”