Calpers to divest stake in two makers of guns, ammunition

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February 20, 2013 8:14 AM EST

The investment committee of Calpers, the biggest U.S. pension fund, voted on Tuesday to divest its holding in two manufacturers of guns and high-capacity ammunition clips banned in California.

The move affects about $5 million in investments in Smith & Wesson Holding Corp and Sturm, Ruger & Co at the $254 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, best known at Calpers.

The vote follows a divestment motion by Calpers board member, investment committee member and California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer in response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December.

Lockyer said divestment by Calpers would be largely symbolic given the amount of money involved but argued to fellow investment committee members that it would hold "special meaning" for school faculty and employees who are members of the pension fund.

Lockyer also sits on the board of the California State Teachers' Retirement System, which decided last month to divest its holdings in makers of firearms and high-capacity ammunition clips illegal in California.

A semi-automatic rifle used at the Sandy Hook school is banned in California. The mass shooting in Newton has sparked a national debate regarding gun control, with some pension funds flexing their financial clout to weigh in on the issue.

New York City's top financial officer said on Friday that the city's $46.6 billion teachers' pension fund pulled its money out of publicly traded firearms manufacturers.

According to New York City Comptroller John Liu, the five companies from which the fund divested are Alliant Techsystems Inc , Olin Corp , Forjas Taurus SA , Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger.

(Reporting by Jim Christie)

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