Conn. offer of aid for gun maker pulled days after Newtown killings; company's sale an issue

HARTFORD, Conn. – Just days before 20 children and six educators were killed at a Connecticut school in December, state development officials offered the maker of the rifle used in the massacre a $1 million loan to bring new jobs to the state.

The offer, capping six months of negotiations between the Department of Economic and Community Development and Freedom Group, was dropped after private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management announced it would sell Freedom Group, manufacturer of the Bushmaster AR-15.

The deal was ended four days after the killings, according to a letter released in response to an open records request.

The Hartford Courant first reported the deal and its unraveling.

Deputy agency commissioner Ronald Angelo said Wednesday that Cerberus’ announcement made the deal untenable. The announced sale led to several “cordial, amicable” phone conversations between the state and the company about the deal no longer being workable.

He said the killings also were a factor.

“It would be naive to think that that would not weigh on people’s minds,” he said, referring to the shooting deaths.

Freedom Group did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

In a Dec. 6 letter — eight days before the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School — the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy offered a $1 million loan at 2 per cent interest for 10 years to encourage Freedom Group to move its corporate headquarters to Stamford from North Carolina. The state would forgive $550,000 in exchange for the creation of 25 jobs.

Twelve days later — and four days after the massacre — the agency informed Freedom Group that the offer was withdrawn. Angelo said

Angelo said in an interview that Freedom Group approached state officials in June 2012 with a proposal to move the company’s headquarters. The announcement by Cerberus that it would sell Freedom Group was “an adverse financial condition,” he said.

Days after the killings, investors started to avoid some of the nation’s largest gun makers. Cerberus Capital Management announced it would sell the maker of the rifle used in the massacre, which it called a “watershed event.”

“We are investors, not statesmen or policy makers,” Cerberus said at the time.

Stocks of other gun companies fell, and one sporting-goods chain said it would temporarily stop sales of military-style firearms.

As Malloy and Connecticut lawmakers were drafting gun control legislation, the governor wrote to manufacturers asking them to stay in the state despite what he said are differences over how to regulate firearms.

“Additionally, some of the issues related to gun violence prevention require the expertise of the manufacturing community and I welcome your involvement in crafting certain guidelines and strategies,” Malloy wrote on March 6.


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