Lockyer: Pension funds should dump gunmakers

California Treasurer Bill Lockyer wants the state’s gigantic public pension funds to divest themselves of investments in any firearm manufacturer that makes guns banned in California.

Lockyer said Monday that he has asked staff at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) to identify all their investments in gun manufacturers. As treasurer, Lockyer sits on both systems’ boards.

The request follows reports that CalSTRS indirectly owns a part of Bushmaster Firearms International, the North Carolina-based maker of the .223-caliber assault rifle that Adam Lanza used in his murderous spree Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Lanza killed 20 children, six adults and himself.

“STRS and PERS should not be investing in any company that makes guns that are illegal in California, especially ones used to kill 20 innocent children and 6 innocent adults,” Lockyer said Monday.

Reuters reports CalSTRS had invested $751.4 million with Cerberus by the end of March 2012, according to its website. Cerberus owns Madison, North Carolina-based Freedom Group Inc., which includes Bushmaster.

Bushmaster’s XM15 line of rifles are specifically banned by California’s assault weapons law.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    You tell ’em, Bill! I’m sure you’ve given this courageous decision a lot of thought.

  • John W

    I’m about as pro gun control as it gets. If we could repeal the 2nd Amendment and regulate guns the way we do cars, I’d be all for it. But CalPERS and CalSTRS have a fiduciary responsibility to meet. If guns are legal and can give the pension funds appropriate investment returns, the State Treasurer should be telling the funds to invest, not divest. It is a sick irony that gun and ammo sales spike every time Obama gets elected or we have one of these mass killings. So, the gun industry probably makes for a pretty decent ROI.

  • Elwood

    Lockyer is a career politician, having held one office or another since 1973 when I first met him.

    He is very consistent. He was an asshole when I met him in ’73 and has remained one throughout his political career.

    This is just another in a long string of low life maneuvers which have characterized his checkered career. He typifies the politician who gives politics a bad name.

  • Bucko

    Should we also insist that none of our pension funds invest in any company that makes knives, fertilizer that can be used for making bombs, bows and arrows or crossbows, axes and hatchets, gasoline for making a fire bomb, baseball bats or even hammers? Any one of those can and has been associated with murders at one time or another!

    What we need is for the politicians to let the pensions funds invest where they can maximize earnings for the people they represent. Inanimate objects don’t kill, people do. Any person in this country has an unimaginable amount of “off the shelf” items available for mass murder if that is what they intend to do. Homemade weapons of mass destruction can be made very easily without ever considering using a gun, so my advice to Wild Bill is to support better security methods rather than be so small-minded to think divesting in a profitable business will make any difference at all!

  • Publius

    Gun maker stocks are up 700% since 2008.

    I am sure Bill would move all of the Gun Stock money to renewable energy stocks. Using government funds for politically expedient purposes or to make political statements; now that is a true Democrat.

  • John W

    Cerberus Capital is selling off it’s stake in Bushmaster, so perhaps there are legitimate business reasons for pension funds and other institutional investors to reduce their holdings in gun industry companies. That’s different than doing it for political grandstanding purposes.

  • GV Haste

    Simple grandstanding by Bill who just wants to move onward to his next state job…
    What is it next time, I’ve lost track?
    Assemblyman, Senator, AG, Treasurer, … what, Controller, or Sec. of State? Then on to School Supt.

    How about retirement and taking care of your other important duties.

  • Cindy (a farmer)

    Good move, Mr. Lockyer. Although I’ve heard firearms stocks have plumeted, so the pension funds may have already taken a hit. It was a sad and ironic investment in the firstplace.
    And to Bucko and others still using the lame argument about knives, fertilizers and cars being murder weapons, too: All of those tools have a primary purpose besides killing and maiming. Many of us who want stronger gun laws and enforcement, don’t want to take your hunting rifles or registered, non-extended-magazine handguns away, but i’m thinking anyone that continues to parrot this argument may not have the mental capacity to be deemed a responsible gun owner.
    When potential or current gun owners have to take a test, similar to our drivers’ license test, we might want to make sure the questions catch this mindset, and just say “NO”.

  • Elwood

    Congratulations on your superior intelligence, Cindy (A Farmer).

  • John W

    Re: 7

    I think Bill has run out of state offices. They may have to create a new department and constitutional state office so that he can run for something new.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Farmer Cindy, why do you remove your footwear at airports? What harm can shoes do?

  • James B.

    Elwood has it right. Lockyer actually is spelled O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-S-T. How he is qualified to be “Treasurer” is beyond me. His marriage to Nadia was one of convenience – he planned to run for governor and thought that a Latina spouse would win votes (we hope all the best for Nadia and family as they cope with her illness and ordeal, but she simply was not qualified to be Alameda County supervisor and Bill Lockyer has never explained why he worked so hard to foist her upon the people of Hayward, Union City, etc.). Bill Lockyer is “career politician” personified. With 40 years in Sacramento, he just doesn’t have a life elsewhere (or a life period). He is not qualified to be state controller, the next “gig” he’s aiming for. No major corporation would hire him for a controller job – why should the people of California do so?