Calpers to sell investments in two gun makers

SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - The biggest U.S. pension fund’s investment committee voted on Tuesday to sell its stakes in two manufacturers of guns and high-capacity ammunition clips after the massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut.

Calpers headquarters is seen in Sacramento, California, October 21, 2009. REUTERS/Max Whittaker

The move affects about $5 million in investments in Smith & Wesson Holding Corp and Sturm, Ruger & Co at the $254 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System, best known at Calpers.

The mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were killed in December, has sparked a national debate regarding gun control, with some other pension funds also flexing their financial clout to weigh in on the issue.

The vote on Tuesday follows a divestment motion by Calpers board member, investment committee member and California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer stemming from the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Lockyer said divestment by Calpers would be largely symbolic given the amount of money involved but argued to fellow investment committee members that it would hold “special meaning” for school faculty and employees who are members of the pension fund.

Lockyer also sits on the board of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which decided last month to divest its holdings in makers of firearms and high-capacity ammunition clips illegal in California.

The teachers’ fund began reviewing its private equity funds managed by Cerberus Capital Management LP and invested in Freedom Group, maker of the Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle, one of the firearms used by the gunman in the Newtown shootings. The rifle is banned in California.

Cerberus is in the process of selling its interests in Freedom Group and will return the proceeds to investors, a spokesman for Cerberus said on Tuesday. Cerberus bought firearms maker Bushmaster in 2006 and later merged it with other gun companies to form Freedom Group.

New York City’s top financial officer said on Friday that the city’s $46.6 billion teachers’ pension fund pulled its money out of publicly traded firearms manufacturers.

According to New York City Comptroller John Liu, the five companies from which the fund divested are Alliant Techsystems Inc, Olin Corp, Forjas Taurus SA, Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger.

Reporting by Jim Christie; Editing by Bernard Orr