In the Wake of Yet Another Mass Shooting, a Call for Weapons-Free Finance
It’s time to examine the connection between finance and gun violence
A school shooting in Parkland, Fla. has killed 17 students and teachers. It comes not long after a gunman in Las Vegas left 58 people dead and 851 injured. On March 24, the March For Our Lives will demand legislators take action to help end gun violence. Unfortunately, few expect Washington D.C. to do much to stop gun companies from continuing to flood our streets with weapons.
But government isn’t the only lever of power we have. The financial sector plays a role funneling billions of dollars to companies that make the weapons used in mass shootings, and these banks and lenders are increasingly acknowledging a moral responsibility to shun these weapon companies, even if legislators won’t.
The financial connection to gun makers touches almost everyone who saves for their retirement through a pension, 401(k), IRA, or personal mutual fund portfolio. For example, Bloomberg reports that the state pension plan for Florida teachers has half a billion dollars invested in American Outdoor Brands Co., maker of the AR-15 rifle used in the Parkdale school massacre. But it’s not inevitable - that's a choice they’re making. Other state pensions, such as California’s CalSTRS and CalPERS, have divested from some gun makers.
You may be surprised to learn that your own retirement has likely been helping fund the firearms industry too. A good resource to check out is Goodbyegunstocks.com, where you can look up mutual funds to see exposure to gun manufacturers and gun retailers. The data is old, but it's a place to start.
At As You Sow we built Fossil Free Funds to track fossil fuel investments in common retirement funds. And now we’re working on Weapon Free Funds, a free website that will instantly tell you if the mutual funds you own are invested in weapon companies - from gun makers like American Outdoor Brands to major military weapons manufacturers that produce cluster munitions, land mines, nuclear weapons, and retailers that sell ammunition and weapons. We work with Morningstar to update our holdings data every month.
We all deserve to know that our retirement savings aren't being used to finance weapons causing death and destruction here at home and around the world. The first step is knowing what you own. The next is making a change by moving your money to a socially responsible fund that avoids weapon investments.
We have the power to cut our ties to militarism and gun violence. Together, we can align our values with our actions and take responsibility for the resources we control. Stay tuned for Weapon Free Funds from As You Sow, due out summer 2018.