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Sandy Hook killings spark US state pension funds into firearm industry divestments

March 2013

Calls in the US to divest from its $12bn-a-year firearms industry are gaining momentum after the Sandy Hook tragedy in December, in which 20 elementary schoolchildren and six adults were shot dead by 20-year-old lone gunman Adam Lanza.

In addition to grassroots campaigns, the anti-gun movement is targeting business change by seeking to mobilise shareholders, consumers and investors.

But the most coherent drivers of change are the US state retirement funds, which have persuaded private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management to sell gun maker Freedom Group, which made Lanza’s Bushmaster AR-15 rifle.

These include the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (Calstrs), which has $750m invested with Cerberus. California Treasurer Bill Lockyer had argued that the fund must ‘scrub clean’ its investments of military-style assault weapons.  

Audits were called in Los Angeles, Massachusetts and Chicago, where the Chicago Municipal Employees Annuity & Benefit Fund is to move $1m from Freedom Group, Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger & Co.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is also urging Bank of America and TD Bank to stop lending to gun makers as part of moves to pressurise the firearms industry to accept tougher US gun controls.

Meanwhile, New York State comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is pressing the $150bn New York State Common Retirement Fund, which has $50m invested in Cerberus, to review its firearms interests.

And the city’s public advocate Bill de Blasio has listed the ‘dirty dozen’ of financial services firms with the 12 largest stakes in the sector.




North America | Divestment Campaigns

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