Teacher union pensions invest in firearm and ammunition manufacturers

DCNFRichard Pollock, DCNF

(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
  • Pension investments show teachers are willing to invest in the nation’s biggest gun and ammunition manufacturers
  • The issue of gun violence has focused teachers with renewed, emotional calls for gun control
  • Teacher union pension investments buy stock in gun and ammunition companies

Liberal teachers may claim they abhor guns, but their pension investments show they are willing to invest in the nation’s biggest gun and ammunition manufacturers, according to a review of teacher institutional investments by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The issue of gun violence has focused teachers across the country with renewed, emotional calls for gun control following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., by alleged gunman 19-year old Nikolas Cruz. Seventeen were killed.

Despite teacher’s calls for gun control and a ban on semi-automatic rifles, teacher pension funds have invested for years in gun and ammunition companies such as Sturm, Ruger & Co.; Vista Outdoor; the Olin Corporation, which sells Winchester gun products; and American Outdoor Brands, which now manufacture Smith & Wesson weapons.

The four manufacturers produce a wide range of pistols, revolvers, shotguns, high-performance and semi-automatic AR rifles, silencers, range finders and scopes. AR-style rifles were used in the Florida shooting and 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.

Teacher’s views on guns have been decidedly negative. A 2013 poll by the National Education Association (NEA) found 76 percent of NEA members “support a proposal to ban the sale and possession of military-style semi-automatic assault weapons to everyone except the police and military.”

The public fails to notice that teacher and public employee unions — even in progressive states such as New York and California — have invested in gun and ammunition companies. It has been lining the pockets of teachers upon retirement.

Left-wing unions are now turning wrath toward their own pension fund investments in the nation’s top firearm and ammunition manufacturers.

“We definitely don’t agree with our money being invested in those types of companies,” said Melissa Tomlinson, the assistant executive director of Badass Teachers Association, an activist teacher’s group representing 65,000 teachers. They have ties to the national American Federation of Teachers.

“We are in touch with unions to make sure our pension managers are responsibly looking at what our pensions are invested in,” Tomlinson told TheDCNF in an interview.

The Florida Education Association (FEA) is urging Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, to remove investments from gun manufacturers now in the Florida Retirement System Pension Plan.

Their pension plan currently owns stock in Vista Outdoors; Sturm, Ruger & Co.; Smith & Wesson and Olin.

FEA President Joanne McCall said she hopes the money could be divested elsewhere in light of the Cruz shooting. “We would hope and encourage the governor and the cabinet to divest from those companies and place our money somewhere else,” McCall said, according to the Orlando Weekly.

However, some school fund managers are proud of their investment in guns and ammunition companies. David Bradley, a board member of the Texas Permanent School Fund, told TheDCNF the teachers who are upset about investment in gun companies “are a bunch of weenies.”

“We don’t kowtow to every special interest that wants us to divest. We’re in the business of making money for public education,” he told TheDCNF in an interview.

“If you’re a fiduciary, you’re responsible for investment returns, not to push my own personal agenda,” Bradley stated.

Teacher union pension investments from coast-to-coast have continued to buy stock in gun and ammunition companies despite the outrage expressed by many teachers following recent school shootings.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, one of the largest pension funds in the country, quietly liquidated its $2.7 million investment in Vista Outdoor Inc. last week, a CalSTRS spokeswoman told TheDCNF.

Vista Outdoor is a company that produces arms and ammunition for hunters and the military. “The Shooting Sports segment includes pistol, rifle, rimfire, shotshell ammunition, primers, centerfire rifles, rimfire rifles, shotguns and range systems,” according to the company’s website.

The CalSTRS spokeswoman acknowledged the teacher’s group did not issue a press release or any other public statement about its divestment in the company.

However, CalSTRS continues its investment in the Olin Corp., which makes ammunition, including small-caliber military ammunition, according to a CNBC report.

New York State Teachers Retirement System owns $1.3 million in Vista Outdoor and $2.6 million in Sturm Ruger.

Sturm sells pistols, revolvers and rifles. It offers 16 different rifles, including those that are on the AR rifle semi-automatic platform.

“No decision has been made on divestment of gun stocks from our portfolios,” John Cardillo, the New York pension’s spokesman, told CNBC.

TIAFF, the “Teachers Insurance and Annuity Associates-College Retirement Equities Fund,” represents five million teachers and educators, and the fund invests $6 million in Vista Outdoor; Sturm, Ruger & Co. and Smith & Wesson, according to their institutional investment disclosures.

A TIAFF spokeswoman defended the investments. “Our exposure to these companies is extraordinarily small and is confined to passive portfolios which track specific market indices, such as the Russell 2000,” the spokeswoman told TheDCNF in an email.

Katie Kaufmanis, a spokeswoman for the Public Employees Retirement Fund of Colorado, said the public employee union, which includes public school teachers, claimed their investments totaled $1.3 million and was invested in four “gun manufacturing-related companies” in indexed, passive portfolios. The investments include Vista Outdoor; Sturm, Ruger & Co. and Smith & Wesson.

Other teacher unions with firearm investments include Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Kentucky and Texas Permanent School Fund.

“We don’t have a gun problem here in Texas,” said Bradley who, instead of running away from the investments, said he was proud of them. “The federal government goes in and declares schools to be ‘gun-free zones.’ Well the only one’s paying attention to the sign are law-abiding, rational people. It’s the ‘nut jobs’ who know if they walk in there, nobody’s going to challenge them.”

“If someone is armed, granted they might only have a 9 mm and this guy may have an AK-47 with hundreds of rounds,” Bradley added. “The reality is, though, you’ve changed the dynamic. He’s no longer going to be shooting innocent people. He’s going to go into self-protection mode to focus on who’s attacking him. So you do save lives,” he said.

The National Education Association did not reply to inquiries by TheDCNF.

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