Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina Raimondo (D) is pushing the State Investment Commission to sell the state’s pension fund’s holdings in equity funds that own stakes in a gun distributor. Rhode Island is the latest in a growing number of government entities consider divesting firearms assets from pension funds.
As state treasurer, Raimondo chairs the investment commission, which oversees $7 billion in pension funds. Her office’s official mission is includes protecting the Ocean State’s assets “with sound financial investments.” A spokeswoman told the Providence Journal that, “Divesting gun distributors from the pension portfolio is a priority for the treasurer. She believes we owe it to one another to do everything we can to keep our neighborhoods and schools safe for all our children and their families.” She will recommend selling Rhode Island’s $20-million investment in Wellspring Capital Partners IV and Summit Partners, private equity funds with a stakes in United Sporting Companies.
Since last year’s Sandy Hook tragedies, several other state and local pension funds have also taken similar steps. At the urging of California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer (D), the California State Teachers’ Retirement System Investment Committee began divesting from assault weapons manufacturers in January. Two months later, the city council in Oakland, CA, voted to divest as much as possible from gun and ammunition manufacturers.
Massachusetts General Treasurer Steve Grosssman (D) proposed a bill in January to divest Bay State pension funds from companies that make semi-automatic “killing machines” for those other than the military and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) ordered his city’s pension funds to “divest of any investments they have in any gun manufacturer.” Los Angeles moved to divest from companies involved with the manfuacture, sale, or distribution of assault weapons in February.
New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (D), a trustee for the city’s $43.3 billion retirement system, noted in December that beyond the moral issue, there could be a financial incentive to avoid arms investments. “The increased liability from such exposure, and gun companies’ links to the horrific Newtown tragedy, make such exposure a poor investment decision,” he observed.