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 For instance, countless companies have withdrawn their contributions to the National Rifle Association after the Parkland shooting.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.