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California's teachers pension fund will consider divesting from gun retailers following mass shootings

 (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California's teachers pension fund will consider canceling its investments in national retail companies selling guns and ammunition banned in the state after Treasurer John Chiang argued for action following last month's mass shooting in Las Vegas.

"Neither taxpayer funds, nor the pension contributions of any of the teachers we represent, including the three California teachers slain in Las Vegas, should be invested in the purveyors of banned military-style assault weapons," Chiang said during an investment committee meeting of the California State Teachers' Retirement System, or CalSTRS, on Wednesday.

Chiang, who sits on the board of both of California's major public pension funds, brought with him the brother of a woman killed during the Oct. 1 mass shooting at the outdoor concert in Las Vegas where 58 people were killed.

"I saw with my own eyes and felt with my hands the carnage these weapons inflict," said Jason Irvine, the brother of 42-year-old Jennifer Topaz Irvine. Irvine spoke about having to identify his sister's body for authorities.

CalSTRS staff was asked to review investments the board of directors may want to remove from the fund's $215.3-billion portfolio. After the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school in 2012, CalSTRS sold stock and security investments in gun manufacturers. Chiang's request could spark a much larger divestment, as it focuses on retail companies that sell the weapons and ammunition.

Harry Keiley, the chairman of CalSTRS' investment committee, endorsed the review of gun-retailer investments.

"This is an issue that we alone cannot solve," he said. "At the same time, I don't think we should sit by idly."

Chiang, who is running for governor in 2018, told pension fund officials that selling off those kinds of assets would be consistent with CalSTRS' efforts to minimize involvement with companies whose business efforts are a risk to public health and safety.

"It would be difficult to argue that battlefield assault weapons and aftermarket accessories designed to rain down bullets don’t fall into this category," he said.

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