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Public funds have long advocacy for gun safety

Denise L. Nappier is in the midst of discussing safety with gun manufacturers again.

Responding to an inquiry from a state senator on how much the $34.2 billion Connecticut Retirement Plans & Trust Funds had invested in gun companies and the process to divest, Denise L. Nappier, state treasurer and sole trustee of the retirement plan, said she is in the process of engaging with gun manufacturers.

It is not the first time the Connecticut retirement plan has attempted to engage with weapons manufacturers on gun safety.

In 2014, the Connecticut plan and the $201.3 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund filed a gun safety shareholder proposal at Alliant Techsystems Inc., now Vista Outdoor Inc., that called for the weapons manufacturer to adopt the Sandy Hook Principles, a set of guidelines aimed at curbing gun violence that were developed following the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The proposal, which was approved by less than 7% of shareholders in 2014, was filed again at Vista Outdoor in 2016, where it received less than 9% of shareholder votes in favor, according to data from Institutional Shareholders Inc.

The $231.6 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System, West Sacramento, and the $209.7 billion Florida State Board of Administration, Tallahassee, were among the investors that voted against the proposals.

CalSTRS spokesman Michael Sicilia said in an email that the pension fund voted against the proposals in both years because pension fund officials believed the company was reporting adequately on the risks associated with its products and efforts to promote their safe use. John Kuczwanski, a spokesman for the Florida SBA, provided a similar explanation for the board's votes.

In her March 1 letter to Connecticut state Sen. Gayle Slossberg, Ms. Nappier wrote that divestment "represents the last of a series of options that shareholders can employ to effect change" and that "responsible ownership requires shareholders to engage the companies in which they invest to ensure that the boards are effective stewards of a viable, sustainable business strategy."

"If those efforts prove unsuccessful, then I agree that divestment is an appropriate course of action," Ms. Nappier wrote.

The Connecticut retirement plan had $16.5 million total invested in weapons-related companies: Vista Outdoor Inc., Orbital ATK Inc., Olin Corp., Daicel Corp. and Compagnie Financiere Richemont SA as of Feb. 26, according to Ms. Nappier's letter.