The real challenge to changing firearm policy in this country is the fact that there is a lot of money made in weapons manufacturing and sales. Could that be about to change?
In the wake of the immense tragedy in Newtown it seems too much to hope for. But maybe that’s exactly what he have to do, because with political momentum for significant reform legislation and news starting to peek through of Wall Street unease of being visibly tied to profiteering from senseless murder, it’s the only way real reform will stick.
Cerebus Capital Management, a private equity group that owns Freedom Group, the gun maker that made the rifle used in the Connecticut school shootings, announced Tuesday it was putting the group up for sale. “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. Cerberus is owned by the billionaire financier Stephen A. Feinberg. His father, Martin Feinberg, lives in Newtown, Conn., where the shootings occurred.
Other brands under the Freedom Group umbrella include Remington Arms, the country’s largest and oldest maker of rifles; Marlin Firearms, a manufacturer of lever-action rifles. It’s not clear who will step in to buy the group at this time, but since the tragedy shares of publicly traded American gunmakers Strum, Ruger & Company and Smith & Wesson have fallen since the tragedy. For the moment, it would seem, Wall Street’s losing its appetite for profit built on murder.
There is a similar sign in the retail sector as well. Dick’s Sporting Goods, a national retail chain with more than 500 stores has stopped, momentarily, selling assault rifles.
Walmart, by contrast, removed its information page on the Bushmaster .223 assault rifle but has not stopped selling guns or ammunition. The reasoning there is clear: the money is still too good. In 2006 the company stopped selling firearms in most of its American stores, saying there was little demand for them. It reversed that decision in 2011 saying it wanted to appeal to hunting enthusiasts and began selling guns at more than half its stores.
And that’s the moral conversation we must have on firearm control. At what point is the freedom to profit from death something we’re no longer willing to tolerate? Because that is exactly what the manufacturers and retailers are doing.
Photo from 401(K) 2012 via flickr.