Goldberg urges lawmakers to divest guns | New
BOSTON — The chief guardian of the state pension system is urging lawmakers to divest the pension fund of any ties to gunmakers in response to a series of mass shootings across the country.
Treasurer Deb Goldberg, whose office oversees the pension fund, said the $101.5 billion pension system has about $2 million in gun-related investments.
Goldberg said she does not have the authority to unilaterally dispose of holdings in the Pension Reserves Investment Trust Fund, which she oversees. This would require legislative action.
She is therefore urging lawmakers to pass a proposed $1.7 billion supplemental budget bill, pending before the Legislative Assembly, directing the Pension Reserves Investment Management Council, which she chairs, to divest weapons-related investments from the fund. She said the move would “send a strong message that Massachusetts will not continue to fund preventable gun violence.”
“It is unacceptable that we as a country continue to live in a seemingly endless cycle of gun violence,” Goldberg said in a statement. “Traditional approaches don’t work, and we need to do what we can to potentially save lives.”
The request comes amid renewed calls for gun control following public outrage over recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York.
John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence, a national advocacy group that pushes for stricter gun control, is among those supporting the move.
“Last year alone over 45,000 Americans died from guns and today and every day over 100 more Americans will die and there will be a mass shooting of four or more people” , Rosenthal said. “The divestment of the firearms industry combined with our strong bipartisan leadership in the Commonwealth will absolutely help save lives from preventable firearm injuries and deaths here and at home.”
This year alone, there have been 215 mass shootings of more than four people, including 17 after the massacre of 19 students and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, according to the group Everytown for Gun Safety.
Beacon Hill has responded to other wars and crises by depriving the regimes of countries such as Iran, Sudan, South Africa and Northern Ireland of funds.
More recently, the Legislative Assembly approved a plan to strip the pension fund of any ties to Russian investments following President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Goldberg said the proposed divestiture would require PRIM to “sell, repurchase, transfer or withdraw” publicly traded securities of ammunition, firearms and accessory companies that derive 15% or more of their revenue from the sale or manufacture of firearms and ammunition for civilian purposes.
The move would impact several companies, including Ammo Inc., Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger and Vista Outdoors, Inc., according to Goldberg’s office.
Goldberg filed a similar request as a standalone bill in the current legislative session, but the measure was sent for consideration, effectively killing it.
The Democrat had called for the surrender of gun possessions following the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, at Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people and injured 17 others, but the plan to law did not get enough support.
Despite this, Goldberg’s office points out that since 2018, PRIM has independently sold $4 million worth of stock in gun and ammunition manufacturers and distributors.
In Washington, President Joe Biden is pressuring lawmakers to act on gun control. In addition to calling for a new ban on assault weapons and high-capacity firearm magazines, the Democrat is also calling for stronger federal background checks and a “red flag” law that allows authorities to Temporarily confiscate weapons belonging to people in mental health crisis.
“For God’s sake, how much more carnage are we willing to accept?” Biden said Thursday in live televised remarks. “How many more innocent American lives have to be taken before we say ‘enough’? Enough.”
Despite pleas from the president, the efforts face an uphill battle in Washington, DC, where gun control measures have failed to pass amid Republican opposition.
Biden said it was “unconscionable” for GOP lawmakers to obstruct gun control measures in the wake of recent shootings. He said if Congress can’t agree on a ban on military-style rifles like the AR-15 used by the gunman in the Texas massacre, he should raise the gun purchase age from 18. at 21 years old.
In Beacon Hill, lawmakers are weighing measures to restrict access to guns with several Democratic-backed proposals still in play during the current legislative session.
Many proposals being considered by Massachusetts lawmakers seek to fill what some describe as “loopholes” in current gun laws, such as the state’s 2014 ban on magazines holding more than 10 bullets.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group newspapers and websites. Email him at [email protected]