Educators Take a Stand Against Financing Guns

A group of California teachers is taking to heart the linkage of education and firearms inherent in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and is working to divest teacher funds of firearm holdings.

Following a unanimous vote by its members during a public meeting, the California State Teachers Retirement System (Calstrs), one of the largest in the United States, began the divestment process. Educators agreed they did not want their pension funds mixed with such companies as The Freedom Group, Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger that make semiautomatic weapons, much like the rifle Adam Lanza used to kill 26 people, including 20 children, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“By doing this, we’re showing everyone that we are not being silent about this issue,” AFSA Executive Vice President James Dierke said. “The Newtown tragedy was one of several events that have occurred in the past year that brought this decision to the forefront. We as educators are on the front line against gun violence.”

Smith & Wesson manufactured the weapon used by James Holmes in the July 2012 rampage in the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. The assault weapon used by Anders Breivik to kill 77 people in Norway in 2011 was made by Sturm, Ruger. Calstrs investments in these companies range from great to miniscule; nonetheless, all of these companies make guns citizens are not allowed to own in California.

Stocks for publicly owned gun makers also took a hit when Cerberus Capital Management, a major private equity firm, decided to sell its stock in The Freedom Group, which is responsible for roughly 50 percent of the sales of military-style semiautomatic weapons in the United States. Cerberus Capital manages an estimated $20 billion, according to The Huffington Post.

The California teachers fund may have shed some light on the issue as cities and states move to reconsider if investing in firearms is an appropriate way to cover retirement costs of their workers.

“By doing what we did [divesting], it definitely gives people something to think about,” Dierke said, referring to the domino effect that may occur with other institutional investors.

“The only way to affect change is to show people we’re serious about this,” Dierke said. “We had to put our money where our mouth is.”


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