Blood money? Bill would pull NJ pensions from gun investments
Add another proposal to the growing list of gun-related bills likely to gain traction in the Legislature: Prohibiting the state pension funds from investing in manufacturers of firearms or ammunition.
State Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, likened the proposal (S1976) to the law adopted in 2016 that prohibits the pension funds from investing in companies that boycott Israel.
“We don’t believe that public tax dollars should be used to support gun manufacturers. It sends an unhealthy message,” Gopal said. “We need to send a good positive message whether it’s nicotine companies, gun manufacturers, we shouldn’t be using tax dollars.”
Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, D-Monmouth, said the pension funds have other opportunities to make money that don’t rely on gun and ammunition makers.
“I don’t think gun manufacturers should profit from the pensions we have in the state of New Jersey. We want to set an example. I think the state of New Jersey really needs to start leading the way,” Houghtaling said.
Assemblyman Hal Wirths, R-Sussex, opposes the idea. He said the same manufacturers also supply police officers and the military.
“I think it’s just politics-as-usual and that we should leave it up to the experts where to invest their money, whether it’s gun stocks, food stocks, whatever they choose as best,” Wirths said.
“The horrible tragedies that happened in Florida, happened in the past, shouldn’t be politicized,” Wirths said. “I think that we should leave it up to the financial experts to invest in what they think is best for the pension thing. And I think it’s just more of a political thing.”
The state Treasury Department couldn’t immediately say how much of the pensions’ $78 billion is invested in gun companies, in part because it holds stakes in hedge funds that don’t disclose what they hold.
In 2013, the Treasury Department said it was unaware of any investments in companies manufacturing assault weapons for civilian use, when then-Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have banned pension investments in such companies. That bill passed the Legislature in a mostly party-line vote.
State Division of Investment records show the pension funds last month sold $378,000 of stock in ammunition maker Olin.
“We need to send a message,” Gopal said. “This sends a message to the entire state and the entire country that it’s not acceptable.”