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CA Pension Systems to Divest Stocks, Cite Assault Weapons Production

by Blake Bunch, published

Mark R / Mark R /

On Tuesday, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) voted to sell off its investments in Smith and Wesson Holding Corp. and Sturm Ruger & Co. The shares, totaling $5 million, are to be sold off because both companies produce weapons that are illegal in the state. Tweet at @CalPERS: Tweet

Though state legislators from both sides of the fence have promoted new gun control measures, this is the first solid move the state has taken in response to gun violence. It was spearheaded by treasurer Bill Lockyer, ultimately in response to the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

Not only did CalPERS vote to divest the shares, but the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) did as well. Tweet at @CalSTRS: Tweet

The CalPERS board voted 9-3 to sell off its 196,664 shares of Smith and Wesson, and 116,594 Sturm Ruger shares.

Board member Dan Dunmoyer, who offered one of the dissenting votes, argued that since CalPERS invests in other companies that produce illegal goods, it was presumptuous to exclude firearm manufacturers. Dunmoyer was referring to companies that produce gasoline only available in other states, cars that don't hold up to California's clean air standards, and even some acne medicines.

Smith and Wesson produces semiautomatic models such as the M&P10 and M&P15, which are illegal assault rifles under California law. Sturm Ruger makes semi-auto handheld weapons like the SR9 or 22 Charger, as well as the SR-556 assault rifle.

In a recent CalPERS press release, however, board administration president Rob Feckner elaborated:

 “As trustees, we take divestment very seriously. As Californians, we also take gun violence very seriously. Eliminating these investments allows us to keep our duty to our members and, in some small part, do what we can to help stop the proliferation of weapons that can magnify and multiply horrific acts of mass violence." Tweet quote: Tweet

It is widely known that California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. The Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 bans essentially all semiautomatic, center-fire rifles with detachable magazines.

The state has strict regulations for "open carry" permits. California is also tough on ammunition purchases as well as background checks. In California, one must fill out an application with the Department of Justice. The DOJ then runs a background check, which is typically a ten-day period, and is applicable for thirty days.

CalPERS and CalSTRS stance on gun control has caused some to question why the pension systems for state workers and teachers were investing in firearms manufacturers to begin with. Overall, their vote to divest the funds will be appreciated by some and scorned by others.

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