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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 29, 2020   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

National Recap: Conneticut works to financially divest from guns

On Dec. 3, Connecticut Treasurer Shawn Wooden announced plans to reallocate $30 million worth of shares in civilian firearm manufacturer securities. The plan would also ban similar future investments and create incentives for banks and other financial institutions to enact gun-related policies. 

If approved, this will be the first time the state has moved toward divesting shares in firearm-related companies since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The elementary school shooting left 20 children and 6 educators dead.

The treasurer currently oversees $37 billion in public pension funds. Connecticut pension funds are currently invested in five companies that are identified as producers of guns and ammunition. 

The proposal comes just as the U.S. Supreme Court hears a Second Amendment case for the first time in a decade. The court began hearing arguments related to a dispute over former New York City restrictions related to taking guns outside of city limits Dec. 2. 

Wooden said he is pursuing the allocation of the public pension funds in an effort to influence the practices of gun manufacturers in a way that will ensure public safety. 

“I believe divestment should be a tool of last resort, and I support engagement and engaged ownership as a shareholder,” he said. “The sad truth is, even working with other institutional investors throughout the country, engagement on this issue has not worked. The cost, the economic cost, the social cost of gun violence is very, very significant. And the time is now because we don’t have greater action in Washington on this issue.”

His plan would allow state pension funds to continue investing in companies working to develop “smart guns,” which are personalized guns that can detect its authorized user. The policy would also require that financial institutions, like banks, disclose their gun policies in response to proposal requests from the Connecticut treasurer’s office. 

Connecticut is not the first state to create plans of this nature. In 2018, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System voted to use its finances, which total $222.5 billion, to pressure gun retailers to stop selling guns and gun-related accessories. 

Brontë Cook can be reached at bcook4@ithaca.edu