There Is Something We Can Do
Even before the details are disclosed, we knew that the horrific carnage in Las Vegas was made possible by a large personal cache of weapons that should only be available to soldiers on the battlefield. Yet American gun manufacturers freely sell these weapons. And they contribute freely to the National Rifle Association, which has been successful in blocking limited gun control legislation in Congress, even steps which most Americans individually support.
So what we can do? We can follow the money. Remington Outdoor Company is a familiar name, a conglomerate that manufactures a wide range of guns and ammunition with brand names including Remington, Marlin, and Bushmaster. It sells semi-automatic weapons based on the Bushmaster design. Although the ownership is opaque, Remington is descended from the Freedom Group, the arms industry holding group created by New York-based Cerberus Capital. In August 21, 2017, Remington named a new executive chairman of the board, James Geisler, who has worked with Cerberus Operations and Advisory Company since 2014.
Guess what else Cerberus Capital controls? Star Market and Shaw’s Supermarkets, for two. And Steward Health Care—a private hospital firm that started in Massachusetts, and is now acquiring hospitals throughout the country.
After the Newtown massacre, gun sales took off, with “gun enthusiasts” afraid that Congress might finally regulate some aspects of the gun industry, particularly the sale of automatic or semi-automatic weapons like the Bushmaster rifle used to slay the Newtown children and their teachers. The California State Teachers Retirement System threatened to pull its money from Cerberus Capital unless it disposed of its firearms division, the Freedom Group. Cerberus indicated a willingness to sell, and ultimately found a way to enable the California Retirement System to withdraw its money from the Freedom Group. But the firearms business, now renamed after one of its constituent brands, Remington, was never sold.
At first, a spike in sales after Newtown led to greater profits for gun manufacturers. More recently, gun sales fell, in part because “gun enthusiasts” felt more confident that Donald Trump would not support gun control legislation. This whole tale is well told in a November 2016 article by Steven Witt in New York Magazine. With the Las Vegas tragedy, we will likely find the small fraction of American gun owners who own high-powered weapons stocking up on even more firepower, once again afraid that Congress will do something. In 2016, 3 percent of American gun owners owned half the guns in the country.
Here we are again, with a casualty toll as bad as a bad day for American forces in Vietnam. If the NRA fought gun control legislation after Newtown, it is unlikely to hold back on its opposition after Las Vegas.
So what can we do? Connect the dots. We can hit those who control Remington where it hurts, by denting the profits of Cerberus’ other holdings. Get your health care in a hospital not owned by Steward Health Care. Don’t shop at Star and Shaw’s. Tell those stores why you are taking your trade elsewhere. Use your social networks—your church, your Facebook friends, your colleagues and co-workers—and tell them about Cerberus Capital. Tell them why you are buying your deli meats and baby carrots elsewhere. Let’s make clear to the folks with the money that we don’t want assault weapons sold in our country. Tell them that we don’t want to see advertisements that encourage “gun enthusiasts” to arm themselves for Armageddon. Make it clear that we will hurt the Cerberus bottom line, unless and until they publicly disavow support of the NRA and stop selling assault weapons and accessories that facilitate mass killings. Follow the money and do something.