Even as Florida teachers work to protect their students from gun violence, many may be unaware that they have a personal stake in firearms themselves.
Bloomberg reports that the Florida Retirement System Pension Plan holds shares valued at $528,000 in American Outdoor Brands Co. Formerly known as Smith & Wesson, American Outdoor manufactured the AR-15 rifle that Nikolas Cruz allegedly used to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school. The total shares held is 41,129.
That’s not all: Bloomberg also found that the Pension Plan has investments in Sturm, Ruger & Co., Vista Outdoor Inc., and Olin Corp, which all make firearms.
The Florida Retirement System covers all state, local, school district and public universities. About 49 percent of the participants work for school districts, according to John Kuczwanski, spokesman for the State Board of Administration.
As in many pension funds, the participants are passive investors — which means they don’t choose the holdings. While the fund is administered by the Florida State Board of Administration, its investment goals are set by Florida lawmakers. The fund is currently barred by statute from investing in businesses associated with Iran and Sudan, and must evaluate investments in any company that has participated in the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement against Israel.
Bloomberg notes that following the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, CalSTRS and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System divested from Sturm Ruger and Smith & Wesson.
In a statement, Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association, which represents teachers unions, said teachers and other school employees have no say in how Florida invests its retirement system funds.
Rather, “the power to invest retirement funds belongs to political office holders,” she said.
“The Governor and his Cabinet are the managing trustees of the fund and act at the legislature’s direction,” she said. “Surely there are better places for the state to invest its public employee retirement money than in companies that make products that harm our children.”
This story has been updated.