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Cerberus said it would stay out of the gun debate. Why are executives it appointed fighting gun safety laws?

A rack of AR-15 rifles stand to be individually packaged as workers move a pallet of rifles for shipment at the Stag Arms company in New Britain, Conn., Wednesday, April 10, 2013. A Connecticut gun-maker announced on Wednesday it intends to leave the state, just six days after passage of restrictive gun control legislation, while another manufacturer, Stag Arms, which employs about 230 workers, says its customers are urging it to "pick up and leave."
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
Soon to be as seen on TV?
  • Tim Fernholz
By Tim Fernholz

Senior reporter

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 children and six adults were killed in a school shooting in Connecticut by a disturbed 20-year-old using a semi-automatic rifle, the Bushmaster AR-15. The company behind that rifle is Cerberus Capital Management LP, a Manhattan private equity firm named after the mythical three-headed dog that guards the gates of hell.

AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari
Cereberus’ founder Stephen Feinberg.

Cerberus founder Stephen Feinberg and his colleagues had assembled a gun conglomerate called the Freedom Group, the largest firearm manufacturer in the US, including brands like Remington, Bushmaster, and Marlin. In the flood of attention following the shooting, Cerberus said it would sell the firm to sidestep what was sure to be a bruising battle over gun safety laws. “As a firm, we are investors, not statesmen or policy makers… it is not our role to take positions, or attempt to shape or influence the gun control policy debate,” Cerberus said in a statement. ”That is the job of our federal and state legislators.”

But two years later, federal gun safety laws remain unchanged, and Freedom Group remains profitable and unsold. Now its executives—appointed by Cerberus—are helping to finance anti-gun-control ads against Connecticut’s Democratic governor, Dannel Malloy. Malloy enacted new gun safety laws after the massacre, but Connecticut is also home to several gun-making companies that oppose the restrictions. Here’s an ad, financed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, that’s running in Connecticut ahead of next week’s election:

If you look at the funding disclosures for the NSSF’s political action committee, you can find a $5,000 donation from George Kollitides, a Cerberus executive who was installed as Freedom Group’s chairman and chief executive, and $10,000 from Walter McLallen, the vice chairman of Freedom Group, also appointed by Cerberus. While they are just two of the many gun industry advocates funding the organization, they are the only two connected to a company that is ostensibly leaving the business to seek the moral high ground.

A Cerberus spokesperson referred questions about the donations to Remington; Cerberus executives have yet to respond to a request for comment.

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