Gun money

By Laurie Bennett

December 20, 2012 at 8:41am

The uproar following the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School has centered on gun rights.

But it’s also about money.

Richard W. Painter, a former ethics attorney in the George W. Bush White House, writes in the New York Times today: “Republican politicians must free themselves from the N.R.A. protection racket and others like it.”

The National Rifle Association spent more than $16 million in the 2012 elections to defeat candidates who favor restrictions on gun ownership, and elect those who don’t.

The organization positions itself as the largest lobby for gun owners. But it also helps the gun and ammo makers, who will rake in an estimated $6 billion this year.

While the NRA takes the brunt of public criticism, there are plenty of other parties benefiting from America’s gun culture.

On Tuesday, the private equity firm, Cerberus Capital Management, announced that it planned to sell Freedom Group, the maker of the Bushmaster rifle used by the shooter who killed 20 children and six adults in Newtown, CT.

The decision followed a call from one of the major investors in Cerberus - the California State Teachers Retirement System. CalSTRS said this week that it is also reviewing its investments in two other publicly traded gun manufacturers - Sturm, Ruger & Co. and Smith & Wesson.

It certainly isn’t the only public pension fund with a stake in gun sales. According to the most recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and other portfolio reports, retirement systems with stock in Sturm, Ruger and/or Smith & Wesson include:

The New York teachers’ investments should be particularly galling for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been one of the most outspoken advocates for gun control.

Investigators haven’t yet said where the guns carried by the Newtown shooter were purchased. But 13 percent of Freedom Group’s sales take place at Wal-Mart.

Every pension fund listed above invests in Wal-Mart, as do retirement systems across the country.

As we wrote on Monday, the National Shooting Sports Foundation is lobby group for the gun industry. It’s shown in the top right of the Muckety map above. The foundation is based in Newtown.

Related editorial: National Rifle (Selling) Association

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