G Star School of the Arts students participate in a walkout from school in protest of gun violence Wednesday Feb. 21, 2018 in West Palm Beach. “It is ridiculous that we have to be out here protesting gun violence,” said student Zoe Overholser, 16. The students stood in front of the school and observed 17 minutes of silence for each of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting victims. (Meghan McCarthy / The Palm Beach Post)

Georgia teacher retirement fund has small investments in gun companies

The Teachers Retirement System of Georgia has investments in thousands of companies in its $76 billion portfolio, such as technology giants Amazon and Apple.

It also invests in businesses heavily involved in firearms sales and supplies such as Sturm Ruger & Co. and Vista Outdoor, about $6 million, Buster Evans, the system’s executive director, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday.

Such investments are generating greater scrutiny in the wake of the recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Fla., that killed 14 students and three faculty members.

A bill was introduced Thursday in the New Jersey legislature to bar that state from investing any of its $78 billion government worker pension fund in gun or ammunition manufacturers, according to news accounts. The Florida Retirement System Pension Plan holds shares valued at $528,000 in American Outdoor Brands Co. which manufactured the AR-15 rifle believed to have been the weapon used in the killings, The Miami Herald reported. Pension funds managed for public school teachers in at least a dozen states own stocks issued by firearms companies, Bloomberg reported.

Evans said there’s not been any discussion about divesting from the two companies, describing the amount of money invested in comparison to the total fund as “little blips on the radar.”

Vista Outdoor sells .223-caliber ammunition, used in AR-15s. Ruger also makes an AR-15 style rifle.

Evans also said removing investments in such companies does not take into consideration the entire portfolio of a particular business. Evans noted Ruger makes handguns for law enforcement. Vista Outdoor also produces outdoor cooking products and cycling accessories.

“The reality is most multinational companies have a number of divisions,” he said.

The Georgia system is funded through a combination of contributions from employees and employers, such as school districts, public colleges, state agencies. The pensions that teachers and employees receive are based on the highest income they earned over a period of time and the years they worked.