New Jersey’s pension fund announced Thursday that it sold its $1.9 million stake in a leading manufacturer of semi-automatic rifles, making it the latest in a growing list of financial institutions and companies taking action against the gun industry since the Parkland shooting.
The New Jersey Division of Investment said Friday that the state treasury decided to sell its shares of Vista Outdoor, which manufacturers Savage MSR semi-automatic rifles.
“After the tragedy in Parkland, we examined our holdings to identify companies which might be adversely financially impacted by a changing landscape as it relates to certain types of firearms,” Chris McDonough, director of the department, said in a statement. “Vista Outdoor was the only holding we identified that manufactures semi-automatic or automatic weapons for civilian use.”
Since the February 14 shooting that left 17 students dead in Florida, state employees across the country have launched pressure campaigns demanding that their pension funds divest from gun-related companies. Teachers, in particular, have been vocal about their disapproval of investing in companies that manufacture the kinds of weapons that have been used in recent school shootings.
In California, teachers and family members of shooting victims have publicly called on the nation’s largest pension fund, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, to end their investments in companies that sell assault weapons. According to the AP, the system has roughly $850 million in holdings in Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart, Kroger, Big 5 Sporting Goods, and Sportsman’s Warehouse Holdings.
“I’m currently urging my colleagues to divest in retail and wholesale suppliers of weapons that are banned for possession or sale in the state of California,” California State Treasurer John Chiang, who sits on the boards of his state’s two largest pension funds, told NPR last month.
Action on the state level is particularly important, Chiang noted, while Congress appears unwilling to pass any meaningful gun legislation.
“We can make a clear and powerful signal that the inaction by Congress is heartless, it’s intolerable, and there are people who want to make sure that kids aren’t losing their lives,” he said.
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System board declined to take action this year buy said it would revisit its investments in gun-related stocks next year.
In the past, pension funds have also responded to shifting public opinion on social and political issues, deciding to divest from tobacco companies, coal companies, and corporations linked to President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration policies.
Pension funds aren’t the only financial institutions responding to public outcry by making moral decisions. Since Parkland, at least three major banks have reconsidered their relationships with the gun industry. Citi Group began imposing a series of new requirements on corporate partners and vendors who accept its credit cards. Bank of America, meanwhile, said it would be reexamining its relationships with gun manufactures, and Berkshire Bank announced it has ended its relationship with the parent company of Smith & Wesson.
Since the Parkland shooting, corporate responsibility has taken on new significance as conscious consumers have scored a number of wins against the gun industry and the gun lobby. After consumer push-back in February, more than two dozen corporations decided to cut ties with the National Rifle Association, ending programs that offered NRA members discounts on car rentals, insurance, airfare, and other products and services.