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Cerberus to sell Bushmaster, manufacturer of rifle used in Connecticut shooting

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Bushmaster semiautomatic rifles such as this AR-15 model are among the brands of Freedom Group Inc. Private-equity firm Cerberus put the company up for sale Tuesday.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Investors shunned some of the nation’s largest gun makers Tuesday in the aftermath of the Connecticut school shooting, including making plans to sell the company that manufactures the Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle used in the attack.

Stocks of other gun companies fell, and one sporting-goods chain said it would temporarily stop sales of military-style firearms. In Washington, some former opponents of gun control signaled that they may change their position, potentially giving stricter gun laws their best chance of passage in years.

The most notable rejection of the gun industry came when the private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management announced it would sell the maker of the rifle used in the massacre, which it called a “watershed event.”

The shooting “raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level,” Cerberus said in announcing the planned sale.

Bushmaster, Remington, and DPMS are among the brands made by Freedom Group Inc., the country’s largest firearms maker.

Cerberus, known for investing in what was then Chrysler LLC and other troubled corporations, appears to have been pressured by investors and the threat of more gun control.

Officials at California’s huge teacher pension fund said they were reviewing a $600 million investment in Cerberus in light of the Connecticut shooting.

Meanwhile, Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. suspended sales of all “modern sporting rifles,” the industry term for military-style guns. The company also removed all guns from display at its store closest to Newtown, where Friday’s shooting took place. Its circular distributed in newspapers on Sunday had a full page of hunting rifles, but no military-style ones.

By contrast, St. Paul-based retailer Gander Mountain’s ad featured a Black Rain Ordnance Inc. PG9, a military-style semiautomatic rifle, for $2,000. Other military-style guns were featured throughout. Such advertisements are generally printed far in advance, likely long before Friday’s shooting.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which sells Bushmaster rifles in some stores, said it would not change the guns it sells, although a Bushmaster rifle no longer appeared on its Web site Tuesday.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation said it had received a record 4,154 requests for background checks Saturday, a day after the shooting.

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