Students in shattered town return to school
As the fallout over the Newtown massacre spread to corporate America, students in the shattered Connecticut town returned to classes yesterday, their yellow buses passing a church where the funeral for one of the 20 first-graders killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary School was taking place.
While students at the indefinitely closed school remained at home, those who attend other schools in the town of 27,000 resumed classes in the run up to Christmas break. At St Rose of Lima Church, back to back funerals were held for a pair of six-year-olds, James Mattioli and Jessica Rekos, the first of eight to be held at the Catholic church in the coming days.
Security was tight. One school in Newtown, Head O’Meadow Elementary School, was ordered to be locked down because of a threat that police did not specify. The school’s principal asked parents to keep their children at home.
As people in Newtown grieved and worried, there were signs the public outrage that followed Friday’s mass shooting was having an impact, unlike previous atrocities. Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm, announced it would sell its stake in Freedom Group, the maker of the Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle that was used by 20-year-old Adam Lanza to kill 20 first-graders and six teachers and staff inside the school.
The gun was purchased legally by Lanza’s mother Nancy, whom Lanza shot to death in the home they shared before he attacked the school.
Cerberus announced plans to sell even though the gun company had proved a lucrative acquisition. Freedom, the nation’s largest seller of firearms and second-largest seller of ammunition, sold more than one million long guns and two billion rounds of ammunition last year, generating sales of $775 million.
Cerberus was under pressure to divest itself of the gun manufacturer after the group that handles retirement investments for teachers in California hinted it might pull its funds from the private equity firm. Among its other acquisitions, Cerberus owns a chain of Catholic hospitals in and around Boston.
“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.
After previous mass shootings, including one in a cinema in Colorado that left 12 people dead in July, public pressure had little impact on the way the gun industry conducted itself. But the emotional reaction to the murders of 20 children aged six and seven has been more effective than years of lobbying by gun control advocates.
Besides Cerberus, Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of the largest sporting goods chains in the US with more than 500 outlets, announced it was stopping all sales and displays of guns at its store near Newtown and would stop selling certain semi-automatic rifles nationwide, at least temporarily. Police said they were still trying to determine whether Adam Lanza unsuccessfully tried to buy a gun at a Dick’s store 12 miles from his home in the days leading up to the massacre.
Still on sale