Academy Sports

KKR's rifle retailer

December 31, 2012: 11:27 AM ET

bushmaster .223Private equity's firearms interests go far beyond Cerberus and Freedom Group.

FORTUNE -- Last week another lunatic used a Bushmaster .223 rifle to murder multiple people. This time the victims were firefighters responding to a call in Webster, New York. Guns may not cause massacres, but people who massacre seem to favor the same type of "gun."

We previously reported about how Cerberus Capital Management plans to divest the parent company of Bushmaster – Lazard is managing the process -- although there are no indications that it is suspending production of .223 rifles or similar weapons in the interim.

We also noted that private equity firm MidOcean Partners refused to comment on its plans for Bushnell Outdoor Products, which makes such peripherals as ammunition speed loaders for .223 rifles. MidOcean's limited partners include the Teachers' Retirement System of the City of New York.

Let me now add a third PE-backed company into this conversation: Academy Sports + Outdoors, a retailer acquired last year by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR).

Academy sells all sorts of products, including firearms. Back in 2009, the company stopped sales of semi-automatic rifles in many of its "border stores," in an effort to help stem what it viewed as out-of-control border violence. Following Newtown, I reached out to both Academy and KKR to see if the retailer was considering a broader ban. After all, this was a retailer that previously acknowledged that some of its wares were prone to being misused for horrific purposes.

But no response from Academy and no comment from KKR. In the past few days, however, I did notice that Academy stopped offering the Bushmaster model on its website (although others remain for sale, including those made by other Freedom Group subsidiaries). Wonder if the California State Teachers' Retirement System, which committed over $330 million to the KKR fund that holds Academy, has an opinion on the matter…

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