Friday, February 1, 2013

Protest Against the Gun Industry

Is it time for public pension fund managers to divest from gun manufacturing companies?

Even though it is unclear how divestment of gun manufacturing companies from public sector pension funds would hurt the industry's bottom line and returns to investors, it would be a start in changing how pension fund managers think about their fiscal versus their social responsibilities. If, in the minds of most people, using guns to kill fellow human adults and children is unacceptable, then public investment in companies that produce those guns should also be considered unacceptable. 

The sell-off probably wouldn't have much affect on the profitability of these manufacturing companies, however there would be a significant social and moral cost. 

If we look at tobacco companies as an example, we can see that in the 1990's public opinion and medical evidence turned against tobacco use and the sale of cigarettes. By then, public sector pension fund managers in many states and insurance companies started to divest in earnest. The emphasis changed from focusing on fiscal responsibility to taking into account the social responsibility of investing public funds in businesses that engage in activities that cause harm to the health and well-being of the country. 

Gun manufacturers, like tobacco companies did in the past, will insist that public investment fund managers should concentrate on fiscal returns to the beneficiaries of these pension funds. However, there is still the ethical social responsibility issue. Do manufacturers of goods have a responsibility to society at large and its customers in particular? Tobacco manufacturers are forced to warn you that the use of their products can cause death from cancer. The gun lobby insists that the gun is a benign tool.

Gun manufacturers, gun owners and their chief lobbyists, the NRA, insist gun ownership in this country is legitimized by the Second Amendment and can not be infringed in any way, shape or form. It's time for our society to revoke such a far-reaching understanding of the Second Amendment. Guns, like tobacco, are historical artifacts of our American society. We had the ceremonial and religious uses of tobacco sacred to the indigenous peoples and commercialized by the earliest European settlers of this nation. Tobacco has lost its significance with the acknowledgement of the health hazards involved with its use. Guns owners, too,  have started to recognize the problems associated with unbridled gun ownership and availability. At a minimum, most believe that background checks should be part and parcel of the gun ownership process. Current gun owners overwhelmingly support universal background checks for new gun purchases. 

But, in addition, the society at large must stand up in protest and consider those who sell assault and military style weapons to the general public as pariahs who exist outside the parameters of a civil and lawful society. It just not acceptable to invest our pension funds in those commercial enterprises.  


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