Pension fund New York City Teachers’ Retirement Systems (TRS) has divested its investments in Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. (Nasdaq: SWHC) and other publicly-traded commercial gun and ammunition manufacturers, citing the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December. As Mergers & Acquisitions has been reporting, there has been an exodus from weapons makers on the part of private equity firms and their limited partners since the tragedy.

TRS’ board of trustees requested an evaluation of the system’s investments in the gun industry after the shooting in Newtown, Conn. The analysis concluded that divestment would be consistent with TRS’ fiduciary standards and overall investment process, according to a statement from New York City Comptroller John Liu. TRS is a $46.6 billion fund.

The fund divested from Alliant Techsystems Inc. (NYSE: ATK), Olin Corp. (NYSE: OLN) Forjas Taurus SA (IBOV: FJTA4), Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. (Nasdaq: SWHC) and Sturm Ruger & Co. (NYSE: RGR).

“Our investment portfolio gains nothing by doing business with these firms, and this is a sound decision that sends an important message about our commitment to addressing the plague of gun violence in every possible way,” Liu says.

“After the tragedy at Sandy Hook, we, as educators, had to make sure that guns were not part of our holdings,” says Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

Alliant makes ammunition and tactical shooting accessories; Olin makes guns and ammunition through its Winchester Ammunition business;  Forjas is a Brazilian company that sells guns; Smith designs and sells guns; and Sturm Ruger is also a firearm retailer.

Several other pension funds have directed review for gun and ammunition makers, including funds in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California and Illinois

After the Sandy Hook tragedy, the California State Teachers’ Retirement Systems (CalSTRS) told reporters that the pension fund was examining its investment in private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP.

Cerberus announced a day later that it would divest its interest in Freedom Group Inc., which owns Bushmaster Firearms International, maker of the AR 15 rifle, one of the guns allegedly used in the shooting. 

That announcement came after California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer told reporters that he believes neither CalSTRS or the California Public Employees’ Retirement Systems (CalPERS) ““should have any investments in the makers of guns that are illegal in California, especially when those guns have been used to kill 20 innocent children and six innocent adults.”

For information on the concept of socially responsible investing, see “Investing ‘Responsibly?’” 

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