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Pension Funds

New Jersey legislator to introduce bill barring pension fund from investing in gun-makers

A New Jersey state senator was scheduled to introduce legislation Thursday preventing the New Jersey Pension Fund, Trenton, from investing in gun manufacturers. Two members of the General Assembly are expected to follow suit, according to a news release issued by Democratic members in the state Senate.

"We cannot stand by and let gun manufacturers, that profit by producing weapons, benefit from the investment of our pension funds," state Sen. Vin Gopal said in the news release. "With this bill, we are sending a message that New Jersey is making a conscious decision about the type of companies the state should invest in."

Details of the proposed bill were not immediately available; neither was the size of the pension fund's investment in gun manufacturers.

The bill prohibits the state "from investing assets of any pension or annuity fund in companies that manufacture firearms or firearm ammunition," the news release said.

It also requires the State Investment Council and the director of the Treasury Department's division of investment "to submit an initial report on its prohibited investments and thereafter to submit annual reports on its progress toward compliance with the prohibition," the news release said. The State Investment Council formulates policies for the division to manage the assets of the $77.6 billion pension fund.

The announcement comes a day after Florida teachers reacted viscerally to news that they've been paying into a retirement fund that invests in gun companies, including the maker of an assault rifle used to kill 17 Parkland high school students and educators last week.

They demanded Wednesday night that the $209.7 billion Florida State Board of Administration divest of those stocks immediately.

The state pension plan for Florida teachers held 41,129 shares in American Outdoor Brands Co., formerly known as Smith & Wesson, as of Dec. 31, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. The company manufactured the AR-15 used in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, according to local law enforcement.

Based on securities filings, the shares are valued at more than $500,000. Like other individual holdings, this is a small portion of the fund's $154 billion portfolio, which includes hundreds of investments. The pension fund is also invested in Sturm & Ruger Co., Vista Outdoor Inc. and Olin Corp., which make firearms or ammunition.

John Kuczwanski, a spokesman for the State Board of Administration, which administers the fund, said while "the SBA must act solely in the interest of the participants and beneficiaries," that "as primarily passive investors, we essentially own the entire market."

Bloomberg contributed to this story.