Florida educators urge removal of firearms stock from teacher pension plans


While teachers and students in Florida debate the state government on gun control, it seems educators may be more involved with the manufacturing of the weapons than many expect.

As in many pension funds, Florida teachers are passive investors in gun manufacturing – which means they don't choose the holdings through the Florida Retirement System.

The Florida Retirement System Pension Plan holds $528,000 in stock for American Outdoor Brand Company, the gun manufacturer formerly known as Smith and Wesson, as well as three other firearm manufacturers. The Florida Education Association is urging the governor and Cabinet to remove those funds from manufacturers' hands.

FEA President Joanne McCall said she hopes the money will be divested elsewhere after the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Valentine's Day that left 17 people dead.

"Our teachers and support personnel were the first ones on the scene, making sure that they were protecting our students," McCall said. "And so we would hope and encourage the governor and the Cabinet to divest from those companies and place our money somewhere else."

The AR-15 rifle used in the high school attack was manufactured by American Outdoor Brand.

Twelve states across the nation, including California and New York, invest money from teacher pension funds into firearm stocks. Many teachers believe the funding is putting children in harm's way.

While there is discussion from politicians about training teachers to carry guns in classrooms, McCall said the programs for concealed carry are far from enough to properly train school staff.

"But going through a program for a concealed carry is not the same thing as what law enforcement go through for an active-shooter course," she said. "And that is a whole different ball game."

Those in favor of maintaining the current pension fund investments say the stocks are low-risk assets with consistent returns, and finding something to replace an investment that safe will be difficult.

After the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, California's Public Employees Retirement System divested its funds from weapons that were illegal in the state, including liquidating funds from Smith and Wesson and Sturm Ruger.

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