Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg is once again urging the Legislature to divest the state pension fund from gun manufacturers in response to the recent mass shootings across the country.
“We can’t understand how people in government and the federal government can continue to watch lives destroyed — small children shredded by these weapons — and not do something about it,” Goldberg told GBH News.
Just 0.002% of the pension fund is invested in manufacturers that sell assault rifles and ammunition to consumers, Goldberg said, or about $1.5 million of the $92 billion fund. The bill, filed in both chambers of the Legislature, would require the public pension fund to divest from those firearm companies.
State Rep. Jay Livingstone of Boston, who proposed the legislation, said divesting from firearm and ammunition manufacturers in Massachusetts would make a statement nationwide that the state is a leader in gun reform.
“Gun violence is a significant issue in this country,” he said. “Massachusetts has been a leader in gun reform, but there’s always more we can do in having a statement of: ‘We’re not going to invest in gun manufacturers.’ I think it is an important statement that we should make as a society.”
Livingstone said the legislation will help make Massachusetts safer and is consistent with the values behind previous efforts to limit access to firearms in the state.
“We’ve passed several landmark bills to limit the ability to own and use firearms in our state,” he said. “And we have a much safer state as a result of that. I think this is consistent that we don’t want our pension fund to be encouraging the manufacturers of firearms by investing in them.”
Goldberg first proposed the move to divest the retirement system in 2018 after the Parkland, Florida, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a gunman killed 17 people.
But no action came from previous attempts to move the bill. While this legislation is no different from previous efforts, Goldberg said she feels the time is now right for the issue to be brought to session.
“I think that there’s becoming more and more of a frustration and anger about what’s occurring and knowledge that these assault gun manufacturers are just not doing anything to try and put in reasonable controls to ensure that these guns and ammunition don’t get into the hands of, often, sadly disturbed people,” she said.
Goldberg said the divestment will not have any financial impact on the pension fund. She pointed to a calculation from Everytown for Gun Safety Research that found gun violence costs the United States $557 billion each year, between law enforcement, health care, lost work and quality-of-life costs for victims and their families.
“We don’t want to be a participant in this,” she said. “It’s Massachusetts doing what we do. We think about people every day where we don’t respond just to corporate interests and it’s about the people of Massachusetts. It’s about our kids.”