The same day President Barack Obama announced the formation of a task force to tackle the issue of violence in the wake of the Newtown shootings, state Treasurer Denise Nappier took a look at the investments in Connecticut’s state pension funds.
In a statement released Wednesday, Nappier said the pension fund owns 924 shares of stock with a market value of $57,233 and corporate bonds valued at $830,500 in Alliant Tech Systems.
Alliant Tech Systems is an aerospeace and defense company that supplies ammunition and related accessories to law enforcement agencies and commercial customers. One of the company’s divisions is the world’s top producer of medium-caliber gun systems and ammunition, including an airburst grenade launcher.
“My interest is ensuring that any company in which Connecticut pension funds are invested conducts its business consistent with our standards for responsible corporate citizenship — which includes considerations of public safety and the well-being of our children,” Nappier said. “Ultimately our interests are best protected when companies are good actors and can sustain our shareholder value over the long haul.”
It’s unclear if the state will be looking to get rid of its investment, which amounts to less than $1 million. The state’s pension fund is valued at $23 billion.
“I am reviewing our investment exposure to not only gun manufacturers, but also to those companies that distribute these weapons,” Nappier said.
Corporate responsibility and governance has been a focus of Nappier’s for several years.
Earlier this week, Cerberus Capital, a private equity firm which owns several gun manufacturers including Bushmaster, the maker of the semi-automatic rifle used by the Newtown gunman, announced it was divesting its interest in Freedom Group.
“It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level,” Cerberus Capital said in a press release. “The debate essentially focuses on the balance between public safety and the scope of the Constitutional rights under the Second Amendment.”
But entering that debate is not generally the role of a private equity firm, which it acknowledged in its statement.
“It is not our role to take positions, or attempt to shape or influence the gun control policy debate. That is the job of our federal and state legislators,” it said.
The debate nationally is already beginning to take shape with President Obama taking the lead on the issue by forming a task force to be headed by Vice President Joe Biden.
At a press briefing Wednesday, Obama said there’s already a growing consensus about what needs to be done.
“A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons. A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips. A majority of Americans support laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases, so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loopholes to buy a gun from somebody who won’t take the responsibility of doing a background check at all,” he said.
But in Connecticut, supporters of the 2nd Amendment are already pushing back.
Richard Burgess, president of Connecticut Carry, said politicians looking to infringe on the 2nd Amendment are taking advantage of a tragedy for political gain.
“Every politico with an agenda had already come out to loudly profess his plan to penalize and take away the rights of the hundreds of millions of gun owners nationwide because of the incomprehensible and inexcusable actions of a madman,” Burgess said in a statement Wednesday.
There are 170,000 pistol permit holders in Connecticut. “This gives us an idea that at least the same number must recognize that evil is an inescapable fact of life and the human condition,” he said.
The NRA, which had been silent for several days after the shooting last Friday, announced this week that it will hold a press conference tomorrow where it is “prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”
Connecticut is home to a dozen gun and ammunition manufacturers, including Colt Firearms and Sturm, Ruger & Co. in Fairfield. There have been articles questioning why the manufacturers stay in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey where guns laws are stricter than in other parts of the country. There has also been an active movement to lure them away.
Anecdotally, gun sales nationwide have increased since the shooting, according to various news reports.