Bill to Ban NJ’s Pension Gun Investments Passes State Assembly

If approved by the state Senate, New Jersey’s public pension fund will be forbidden from investing in assault weapon-related companies.

(February 26, 2013) – The New Jersey state Assembly has passed a bill to prohibit the investment of public funds in companies that manufacture, import or sell assault weapons for civilian use. 

The bill is now awaiting action in the state Senate. 

However, unlike many other major US public retirement systems, New Jersey’s fund neither owns stock in gun companies nor voluntarily banned them from its portfolio following the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. 

The California Teachers’ Retirement System kicked off a round of public pension divestment in December, just weeks after the shooting. The $254 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System—the nation’s largest public pension—followed suit, as did New York City’s teachers’ fund. 

Following these high-profile moves by the New Jersey fund’s peers, the subject came up during the Division of Investment’s January board meeting. A board member asked the scheme’s Director Tim Walsh about the fund’s stance on gun divestment, and Walsh replied that he had looked into it, and “as of now we have no investment in firearms.” There was no discussion of a policy change. 

As Walsh and the board touched on the topic, however, New Jersey politicians had, just three days prior, introduced a bill to force a change in policy. 

The pending legislation “prohibits the State of New Jersey from investing any assets of any pension or annuity fund under the management of the Division of Investment in the Department of the Treasury in companies that manufacture, import or sell assault firearms for civilian use,” according to its text. The fund would have 60 days to prepare a report detailing any holdings that violate the law, and three years to divest them. 

On Monday, the New Jersey Education Association came out in favor of the bill, along with a number of other gun safety proposals. 

“This [proposed] legislation puts our money where our mouth is, by prohibiting the State of New Jersey from investing pension assets” in firearm-related companies, the association’s Vice President Wendell Steinhauer said in a press conference. “That’s just common sense if you want to begin to stem the tide of assault weapons in our communities. We urge the Senate to take quick action.” 

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