Massachusetts Treasurer Steve Grossman has directed the state pension fund to review any investments in gun, ammunition and other companies in response to the killings last week of 20 children and six adults in a Connecticut elementary school.
Grossman stopped short of calling for divestment in gun companies. He said it's the duty of the $51 billion fund to maximize investment returns for retirees, but he said the violence in Newtown should force policymakers at all levels to make changes.
He said Wednesday he was motivated by "the physical, emotional and moral outrage, the collective shudder, the outpouring of emotion and anger and frustration" that immediately followed the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Elected officials and others are speaking about a tipping point in fundamental change coming to federal and state gun laws following the Newtown killings. Treasurers who have control over hundreds of billions of dollars of pension funds are weighing in.
Connecticut Treasurer Denise Nappier also has ordered a review of the state's pension fund and the California State Teachers' Retirement system, the nation's largest teachers' pension fund, is reviewing whether its investments comply with the fund's social and ethical standards. CalSTRS was found this week to have invested $600 million in private equity group Cerberus Capital Management, which said it will sell its controlling stake in Freedom Group International. Freedom Group makes the weapons believed to have been used in Friday's massacre.
"I reached out to my colleagues that it is essential we review all our holdings of what we own relative to guns, weapons, ammunition, manufacturing and distribution because they will be a strong issue for months to come," Grossman said.
The first step in Massachusetts will be to assemble an inventory of the pension fund's 9,000 companies, he said. Beyond that, his office will look at what gun manufactures make such as automatic weapons or guns used for legitimate purposes such as hunting.
Grossman said he will not tell the legislature what policy to pursue, but will use the information to educate the public.
His objective is to force changes such as tighter gun laws, waiting lists that make it harder to buy guns, assault weapon bans and registries that prevent those with mental illness or instability from owning guns.
Ultimately, his goal is to force certain gun manufacturers "to get out of the business, to be a pariah," Grossman said. That "the investment community has made a decision not to do business with you is a pretty powerful statement."
This article was originally published on December 19, 2012.
This program aired on December 19, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.