Calif. Treasurer Calls for Assault Weapons Divestment

John Chiang urges institutional investors to divest from sellers of military-style weapons.

California State Treasurer John Chiang is calling on the largest institutional investors in the US to divest holdings from sellers of military-style assault weapons, ammunition, and other devices such as “bump stocks” that are currently banned in California. 

“If Congress and statehouses are unwilling or unable to deliver real change, then it is up to us to lead the fight,” Chiang said in a release. “I call upon the nation’s largest institutional investors—Blackrock, Fidelity, Vanguard, Allstate, PIMCO, State Farm, and—yes—CalPERS and CalSTRS—to use the power of their purse strings to prevent more of our schools, workplaces, and places of worship from becoming killing fields.”

Chiang was flanked by gun violence protection advocates, family members of victims of gun violence, and supporters of divestment at this week’s California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) Investment Committee meeting. Supporters of the divestment drive included Women Against Violence, Moms Demand Action, Planned Parenthood, the Brady Foundation, Drain the NRA, Americans Against Gun Violence, and family members of victims killed by assault weapons in the 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino that killed 14 people and seriously injured 22 others.

At the meeting, a letter of support was read from the widow of Chris Hixon, who died trying to save students during the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 students and faculty members.

“Since many of these weapons are already banned in California, you may be asking what can you, as pension board members, do,” said Debra Hixson in her letter. “You can use your financial clout to put pressure on the makers and sellers of these military-style assault weapons and support the national gun violence safety movement.”

The California State Treasurer’s Office said it has been emboldened by recent gun-control decisions made by major retailers. It said Big 5, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kroger, and Walmart told CalPERS staff that they do not sell, or will soon stop selling, military-style assault weapons. Meanwhile, another retailer, Sportsman’s Warehouse, is currently engaged in talks with CalPERS staff.

“Shock and remorse provide little consolation to the families who must now bury a child, a sibling, a spouse, or a loved one,” Chiang told the CalPERS board. “If thoughts and prayers could be converted into currency, our pension fund’s $139 billion unfunded liability would have been zeroed out, long ago.”

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