Guns and Divestment

The California Constitution provides that the Legislature may, by statute, prohibit retirement board investments if in the public interest and providing the prohibition satisfies specified fiduciary standards. Current law prohibits the boards of CalPERS and CalSTRS from investing public employee retirement funds in a company with active business operations in Sudan and Iran, as specified.

AB 761 (Dickinson) would prohibit the funds from investing in companies which manufacture nonmilitary firearms or ammunition, as specified, and would require the funds to sell such existing investments.

The bill is ill-advised. I sent the following to CalPERS Board members.
Dear Investment Committee Members:
As a concerned member of the CalPERS system, I hope you will agree with staff and oppose AB 761 when it comes up as item 6 on the Investment Committee agenda on April 15
While certainly well intentioned, Assemblyman Dickinson’s measure would be counterproductive to his own purpose. If the thinking caring Board of CalPERS agrees to divest of companies manufacturing guns for non-military purposes, CalPERS will only end up selling its shares to those with fewer moral qualms. Better to be arguing from inside these companies, as an influential shareowner, than from outside with no effective voice. 

Even from inside it will take creativity, effort and compromise to make a difference because of the SEC’s exclusion for shareowner proposals that involve “ordinary business” operations. However, I’m sure CalPERS could add positively to those opposing gun violence most effectively as a shareowner, rather than through divestment.
James McRitchie

We do not need semi-automatic weapons, high-capacity magazines, etc. to stay true to the 2nd amendment. We need many fewer guns and those that are owned need to be sold much more selectively and kept much more secure. Too many have died for far too long. Please spread the word.

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