Supporting the Youth-Led Movement for Gun Control

For those of us who remember Columbine, the Parkland massacre and its immediate aftermath evoked a colossal feeling of failure. How could it be that two decades and dozens of mass shootings later, nothing had changed?

But as the days turned to weeks, a steely resolve grew within the Parkland students’ collective trauma. They joined forces with Black and Latino youth organizers across the country that have been laboring for decades— ignored by the mainstream media—to stop the scourge of daily gun violence and police shootings that have ravaged their communities. Together, these young people are growing the resistance movement that our generation did not. Serious gun control discussions are finally on the table in America, thanks to children who are tired of executing active shooter drills in closets or taking different routes home to avoid stray bullets.

As socially responsible investment professionals, not only are we deeply inspired; we have a range of tactics to support these young activists in their quest for commonsense gun control laws—many of which we have been using for years already.

At Natural Investments, none of our client funds hold stock in companies with assault or military weapons. Our Heart Rating process asks mutual funds about their weapons and defense holdings as well. Complete purification of the portfolio is, admittedly, difficult. In fact, Bloomberg published two articles—one for and the other against the effectiveness of divestment—within two days of each other. Large companies frequently acquire smaller entities, so it demands ongoing research and constant vigilance on the part of Natural Investments advisers to determine the exposure, if any, that these frequent shifts give us to gun sales in subsidiary holdings. (If you’re wondering about your own exposure, contact us to discuss your options).

It’s important to note that there is a range of strategies and tactics to advancing common sense gun laws. Some funds in our Heart Rating state that they hold weapons manufacturers’ stock for the purpose of shareholder engagement. These funds may receive credit for taking a case-by-case basis approach, rather than falling under a blanket exclusion written into the prospectus. As a seasoned investment firm grounded in advocacy, Natural Investments understands the importance of shareholder engagement. For example, our colleagues at the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility recently filed resolutions with American Outdoor Brands (aka Smith & Wesson) and Sturm Ruger, asking the company to send reports to its investors on how the firms are addressing safety concerns with regard to their products.

Pressure can also be applied within the full supply chain, from banks to retail stores. Some investors have begun conversations with banks urging them to stop credit card transactions on gun sales. Corporate retailers choose what to carry in their stores, and companies do listen to public sentiment; major sporting goods retailer Dick’s recently stopped selling assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and guns to customers under the age of 21.

It is time for the SRI community to step up its support for gun control. The legislative response to the Parkland shooting has been underwhelming at best, and downright shameful at large. While Florida admirably passed a bill that raises the minimum age to buy a gun and bans bump stocks, among other measures, the House’s anemic STOP School Violence Act of 2018 continues to fall short of meaningful action.

Investors who have grown restless with the painfully slow legislative process should know that they can make a quick and effective impact with their financial resources by how they choose to invest.

If you have questions about gun divestment or making changes to your portfolio, please contact us; we would be glad to speak with you.

Photo courtesy of March for Our Lives

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Sylvia Panek

Sylvia Panek

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