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UC Regents urged to finish gun industry divestment

Activists preparing to mark Saturday’s anniversary of last year’s murderous rampage in Isla Vista, in which six UC Santa Barbara students were killed and 13 were wounded, urged the UC Board of Regents on Thursday to finish divesting the system from any investments in the firearm industry.

Thousands of petition signatures were delivered to the board’s meeting at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus by Allie Clement, a 2012 UC Santa Barbara graduate who hails from Newtown, Conn. — the site of 2012’s schoolhouse massacre. “I couldn’t believe that both my hometown and my college town were affected by gun violence.”

Bob Weiss of Thousand Oaks described to the board how his 19-year-old daughter, Veronika, was among those gunned down by Elliot Rodger that awful day.

“If this body is invested in the gun industry, that means you’re in the gun business, and if you’re in the gun business, I’m in the gun business. I don’t want to be in the gun business,” Weiss said, his voice breaking. “I don’t know how any of you can sleep at night with all of the students who have been killed.”

UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said the system divested itself of any direct gun-industry investments in 2013, and is now combing through its vast portfolio to see if any of its mutual funds have such stakes; any that are found will be sold, she said.

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Video game makers urged to shun gun industry

National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, soon after December’s Newtown school massacre, had said some blame should be put upon a video-game industry that glorifies murder, “a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows violence against its own people.”

But what about firearms in video games?

As the video-game industry begins its annual Electronic Entertainment Expo today in Los Angeles, two gun-control groups are calling upon game makers to stop signing lucrative licensing agreements and product-placement deals with gun manufacturers, so that images of actual military-style weapons don’t appear in games.

Battlefield 4A report published today by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and The Gun Truth Project says video games often feature real-world weapons identified by make and model, and have offered cross-promotional opportunities to players to buy them once the game is over.

“We are outraged that video game companies and gun manufacturers are entering into deals to market guns to our children, particularly given the real-life epidemic of gun violence in America,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “The gun industry and their lobbyists have proven time and again that they’re only motive is profit, not encouraging reforms or regulations that would make our children and families safer. To them, our children are pawns to be manipulated for profit.”

Like any other product placement deal, these licensing agreements are meant to increasing the visibility of firearms. One gun industry representative cited in the report said video games provide an opportunity to promote to children, “who are considered possible future owners.”

Yet the report’s authors claim games featuring real-world guns don’t sell any better than games with made-up weapon names – the economic benefit is almost exclusively on the gun manufacturers’ side, the report says.

Redwood City-based Electronic Arts last month announced it will no longer enter into such licensing agreements. “We not only applaud that decision, we are asking the rest of the video game industry to follow suit,” Watts said in a news release. “There is no reason why video game manufacturers should do the gun industry’s dirty work, promoting assault and military-style weapons to our children and teens.”

Actually, EA said it would cut its licensing ties to gunmakers – but continue featuring branded guns without a license.

Watts’ effort to get other companies to sign a pledge is supported by the Every Child Matters Education Fund is supporting the effort. “Thousands of children and teenagers are killed by guns every year,” said fund president Michael Petit. “How any company, knowing that, could continue to market guns to our kids is simply beyond me. It is unacceptable.”