When a lone gunman killed 26 people in Newtown, Connecticut last year, the polarizing issue of gun control returned to the forefront of national debate. In the months following the tragic incident several states enacted new and stricter gun laws.
Many gun control advocates made the push for banning “assault weapons” entirely on the basis that the Newtown shooter, Adam Lanza, had carried a 30-round semiautomatic rifle inside Sandy Hook Elementary School. The rifle, a .223 caliber model XM15, was produced by Bushmaster Firearms. The company soon came under fire from gun control supporters and even the private equity firm that owned it. Bushmaster remains a part of the Freedom Group, one of the world’s largest privately owned firearms and ammunition manufacturers. Shortly after the shooting, Freedom Group was put up for sale by its owner Cerberus Capital Management.
“It’s very easy to blame an inanimate object,” Freedom Group CEO George Kollitides told the Washington Times in his first interview since Newtown. “Any kind of instrument in the wrong hands can be put to evil use. This comes down to intent–criminal behavior, accountability, and responsibility.”
Kollitides has been personally accused by some media reports that blame his company and others in the industry for mass shootings. It reached such an extent that the Freedom Group CEO spent the last few months under the watchful eyes of private security. However, these inconveniences are not enough to make Kollitides step down or reverse his stance on firearms and the Second Amendment.
“At the time of Sandy Hook, Connecticut had a pre-existing ‘assault-weapon’ ban, which like all gun bans, was based on cosmetic features, which once again proves the looks of a gun have nothing to do with its effectiveness,” he said. “Any weapon in the hand of a criminal or those bent on destruction is dangerous. Bans don’t work. Preventing access and punishment work.”
Connecticut lawmakers recently passed into law several bills that would make its already stringent gun control even tougher. Efforts towards tightening firearms on a national level seemingly stalled since the Senate rejected a proposal to expand background checks in April, but experts expect that the fight is not over. On a state level, California and New Jersey are currently pushing their own gun-related packages through legislature. Kollitides believes that these proposals are steps in the wrong direction. Commenting for the first time on Adam Lanza’s spree shooting, Kollitides said that proper gun ownership and armed guards are the only things that could have stopped the killer.
“He killed the gun’s owner, stole her car, stole her gun and then went to a school and killed innocent kids,” Kollitides said in the interview. “No background checks could have prevented that. He illegally obtained the guns.”
Kollitides serves as a trustee of the National Rifle Association Foundation and is an avid outdoorsman with memberships in multiple hunting and conservation groups.