Families of Sandy Hook victims, U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY-13), Geoffrey Eaton, NAACP Mid-Manhattan President, and a diverse coalition of gun violence prevention advocates held a press conference and action at 12pm today, outside the offices of Cerberus Capital Management (875 3rd Avenue, New York) to call on the hedge fund to immediately sell all investments in Freedom Group, the company that manufactured the XM-15 assault rifle used in the December 14, 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Cerberus has not sold a single penny of its 94 percent stake in Freedom Group (now officially called Remington Outdoor Company Inc.), despite making a public commitment to divest in the days immediately following the shooting. Immediately following this afternoon’s press conference, Rangel, Eaton, and more than 35 advocacy groups will deliver a letter telling Cerberus CEO Stephen Feinberg to keep his promise without further delay.
“Cerberus already made a commitment to stop profiting from America’s gun violence epidemic,” said NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “What they haven’t done is followed through. Cerberus needs to honor its promise to the victims of Sandy Hook and to all Americans whose lives have been turned upside down by gun violence by ending its investment in this destructive industry.”
“I’m here today to try to remind Cerberus the promise they made and that they’re letting my son Jesse down,” Neil Heslin, father of slain first grader Jesse Lewis, said. “There was a promise made then by Cerberus to sell their interest in Bushmaster.”
Families of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary were on hand to join the call for Cerberus to divest. Other groups who signed the letter included the office of New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the American Federation of Teachers, Ceasefire New Jersey, Americans United for Change, Moms Demand Action, MoveOn.org, Newtown Action Alliance, Million Hoodies Movement For Justice, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, and about 30 other organizations.
In the weeks following the Sandy Hook shooting, de Blasio joined elected officials and activists across the country to launch the Campaign to Unload, urging hedge funds and money managers to divest from the manufacturers of assault weapons and high-capacity ammo magazines. Within weeks, eight hedge funds and money managers had completely divested their gun holdings, valued at $150 million. Fourteen more firms have scaled back their gun investments by 5.7 million shares — 25 percent of their holdings.
Firms that sold their positions include »
• AGF Investments Inc.
• Tiger Global Management
• Impala Asset Management
• Owl Creek Asset Management
• Valinor Management, LLC
• Citadel Investment Group
• Highside Capital Management
• Coghill Capital Management
• Route One Investment Co.
• Royce & Associates
Freedom Group manufactures the Bushmaster XM-15, the assault rifle with a 30-round magazine used by Adam Lanza to murder 20 elementary school children and six educators. It is the leader in marketing high-capacity, military style assault weapons. Moreover, Freedom Group helps bankroll the National Rifle Association’s campaign to stop any meaningful federal legislation to prevent gun violence. At the NRA’s annual meeting in May, Freedom Group was honored for giving the organization a million dollars or more. The firearms industry as a whole has donated between $19.3 million and $60.2 million to the NRA since 2005, as detailed in the new Violence Policy Center (VPC) report Blood Money II: How Gun Industry Dollars Fund the NRA.
“It is outrageous that Cerberus has not fulfilled its commitment to sell its holdings in gun manufacturers. Every day in the last nine months since Cerberus made its promise, every 30 minutes a child has been killed by a gun. With the human toll of gun-related violence this high, a commitment to do something about it should mean more than words,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.
“Inexcusably, Cerberus continues to bankroll the company that made the assault weapon used in one of the worst mass shootings in American history,” said Josh Sugarmann, Executive Director of the Violence Policy Center. “Freedom Group then pays the NRA a million dollars, and the NRA lobbies Congress to keep these deadly assault rifles on our streets. There is an easy way for Cerberus to break this cycle: Keep their promise and end its investments in Freedom Group.”
“The gun industry epitomizes corporate irresponsibility by failing to exercise a duty of care for its deadly products, by refusing to modify its products to protect consumer health and safety, and by lavishly funding the NRA to obstruct federal gun safety legislation. It’s one big bad rotten apple,” said Leah Barrett, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
“Each time a senseless act of violence and tragic loss of life occurs, disingenuous individuals and organizations come forth with proclamations of action and change,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “But when the time comes to for action, they do nothing. It is utter cowardice and it must stop. We will not stand for empty promises any longer – America deserves better.”
“Did Cerberus really think we would forget about its promise to divest its interest in the Freedom Group, the maker of the weapon used at our school?,” asked Monte Frank, a board member of the Newtown Action Alliance. “We haven’t and we intend to hold Cerberus to its word.”
The event at Cerberus Capital Management was organized by the Campaign to Unload, a national coalition of more than 30 organizations which represent more than 20 million Americans. The coalition’s members include: New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, American Federation of Teachers, Newtown Action Alliance, MoveOn.org, Mom’s Demand Action, CREDO Action, Rebuild the Dream, Violence Policy Center, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Every Child Matters, GunFreeKids.org, Art Not War, New Mexicans for Gun Safety, Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, Protect Minnesota, Women Against Gun Violence, Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort Educational Fund, New Mexicans for Gun Safety, Ceasefire New Jersey, Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, Reston-Herndon Alliance to End Gun Violence, Bergen County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, Sisters United, Sparrow Media, It Can Happen Here, Colorado Ceasefire Capitol Fund, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, Iowans for Gun Safety, North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, GunSense Vermont, Brooklyn For Peace, Million Hoodies Movement For Justice, Heeding God’s Call, and Harlem Mothers Save.
To learn more, visit the coalition’s website at http://unloadtheguns.com.
SOURCE: SparrowMedia | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty