Columns, Opinion

EDITORIAL: Massachusetts could do more than divesting to solve gun violence

In light of recent mass shootings in this country and the subsequent push for politicians to take action, Massachusetts state legislators filed a bill Thursday that forces the state’s pension fund to pull its investments from gun companies. This comes after Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s demand for banks and other financial institutions to reconsider their relationships with gun manufacturer companies.

Using financial leverage against companies that inflict harm and violence on people is not a new approach to demand change. For instance, countless companies have withdrawn their contributions to the National Rifle Association after the Parkland shooting.

For Massachusetts, a divestment like this seems like another way for the state to send a clear message about its stance on those financially benefiting from the gun industry — that they should not be supported in any way. And even though the state is known for having some of the tightest gun control laws in the country, a symbolic gesture like this isn’t sufficient to make actual progress in the fight for tighter gun control.

The Massachusetts Legislature is not alone in its decision. The California Legislature has already divested its pension fund from companies that make all guns that are illegal in California. Lawmakers in Connecticut, Florida and New Jersey are also considering gun divestment bills.

Divestment is complicated, and it requires serious deliberation. Requiring the private sector to divest is one matter, as it only would affect their businesses’ profits. But forcing the government to pull its investments complicates things because it affects people’s livelihoods.  

Many Massachusetts residents rely on the state’s pension fund, which secures their retirement savings. An immediate divestment, which what this legislation calls for, could jeopardize the financial wellbeing of workers —  especially public employees — who rely on the government’s pension plan for their retirement income.

Divestment has an indirect relationship with reducing the circulation of guns in this country. Sure, refusing to accept financial gains from the gun industry could potentially diminish the production and sale of guns on a small scale, but it is not the best way to best way to solve gun violence. People working toward retirement would probably suffer the most from this bill, and it would likely not substantially reduce gun-related deaths.

When it comes to gun control, there are many more other relevant issues that need addressing. After all, guns are the problem in this country, not so much the financial implications of them. Increasing the age for rifle gun ownership from 18 to 21 is one place to start. The fact that our citizens can own a gun before they reach legal drinking age just doesn’t make sense.

State legislators should redirect their energy and collaborate on related issues that demand their attention. It’s still easy to acquire a gun in Massachusetts and attain a license, which can be done as young as 15 with parental consent. Politicians could work on drafting a bill to restrict the number of licenses that can be handed out.

Banning bump stocks is an example of helpful legislation that not only sent a strong message to the country, but sparked conversation on what else can be accomplished. In the Las Vegas shooting, the gunman used bump stocks, which experts say led to a higher death toll. There is no need for placing a violent device on an already lethal weapon, and lawmakers responded to this issue with legislative action.

Once other, more productive measures go into effect, companies involved in the manufacturing of weapons could feel financial consequences. Until then, Massachusetts should continue being a leader in gun laws by passing measures that restrict gun usage and place necessary regulations so we can get closer to reducing violence in America.

3 Comments

  1. I assume that the liquor industries, and the car industries, the source of more death, destruction, family breakups, domestic abuse, and so much more, are next?

  2. You raise the issue of raising the age for firearms possession – maybe this is the opportunity to settle on an “age of majority” when someone becomes an adult. If we’re going to align drinking alcohol and firearms possession, should we not also raise the age to join the military, and reduce the age at which someone can be treated as a dependent / child on their parents insurance? How would you account for someone serving in combat at 18 but not being allowed to own a rifle to participate in target shooting with a .22 rifle when they return home?

    I would be interested to hear how you would constitutionally limit the number of firearms licenses that could be handled out. Would you limit the number of people would could be free from government interference in their free speech, or set a hard cap on the number of people protected from unlawful search and seizure?

    I am curious to know how you know with such certainty that, of teh 23 weapons recovered in the Las Vegas hotel room, that the one(s) outfitted with bump stocks were the one(s) used by the murderer. (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/10/03/what-gun-used-las-vegas-shooting/726743001/) Can you point to any official report that says those were the rifles used?

    Massachusetts has the lowest reported gun death rate in the country
    last year (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/02/21/states-most-and-least-gun-violence-see-where-your-state-stacks-up/359395002/) but ranks as the 23rd most violent state overall (https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-most-dangerous-states-in-the-u-s.html)

    I would submit to you that further restricting the ability for lawful owners to own and possess firearms has a much diminished return over other actions the legislature and judiciary might take. As long as the Worcester courts release someone caught with heroin and illegally in possession of a firearm (https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DYF6JAQU0AAJpJE.jpg) or the Falmouth courts release someone in possession of methamphetamine and illegally in possession of firearms (https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DWhqk1ZV4AELYc8.jpg), attempts to further restrict those who follow the laws, and who pass the federal and state background checks and suitability review by their local police department will do nothing to improve public safety.

  3. What Massachusetts gun violence are you speaking of? None involving rifles? So, why am I having my tax dollars go to putting regulation in place in MA that solves a non-MA problem? After Pulse our AG modified law with a memo and now there are no AR style rifles for sale (her action now under lawsuit.) After Las Vegas bump stocks are banned; actually we could say stolen by MA Gov’t if one owned one they are required to turn in the previously owned property without compensation. Now ‘we’ want MA to discriminate against manufactures that are as legal as the next? MA sure can divest. Tough if they are in mutual funds but hey, cut the nose off and drop the full funds also. Probably we are under contract with the funds but, break the contract and take the penalties. It will only hurt our retirees. Banks are another issue and choke was already tried in the Obama administration. Pretty sure found to be illegal and unconstitutional.