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Treasurer John Chiang calls on state pension funds to divest from retailers who sell guns banned in California

People visit a makeshift memorial for shooting victims on Reno Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
People visit a makeshift memorial for shooting victims on Reno Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Outraged by the shooting Sunday that killed 58 people in Las Vegas, California Treasurer John Chiang called Friday for state pension officials to investigate whether they have investments in retailers or manufacturers of assault rifles and devices that give the weapons rapid-fire ability.

Chiang, a candidate for governor, asked the board members at the California State Teachers’ Retirement System in a letter to go beyond their 2015 action that prohibited investments in firms that make semi-automatic rifles and ammunition that are banned in California.

“I respectfully call upon this board to refrain from allocating even a penny of our $213 billion in investable assets to the benefit of wholesale or retail sellers of these banned weapons,” wrote Chiang, a member of the board. “Neither taxpayer funds nor the pension contribution of any public school educator — such as the three California teachers slain in Las Vegas — should be invested in the purveyors of banned military style assault weapons.”

Chiang planned to send a similar letter to the California Public Employee Retirement System, where he also serves on the board.

State retirement money is invested in big retailers that sell guns. The pension funds would have to determine whether firearms sold in other states by the retailers are prohibited in California, Chiang said.

The divestment proposal also extends to stores and manufacturers that provide “bump-stock” and “slide-fire” devices that allow rifles to accelerate their rate of fire, Chiang said. One such device was used by Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter.

A spokesman for Walmart, a recipient of state pension funds, said the stores stopped selling the prohibited semi-automatic rifles in 2015 and does not sell bump-stock devices. The sale of the devices on Walmart's website through a third-party vendor was immediately stopped, said Charles Crowson, the spokesman for Walmart.

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