As Florida teachers grieve over the mass shooting that left 17 students and colleagues dead last week, some of them may be surprised to learn they’ve been helping fund the firearms industry—including the company that made the gun used that bloody Wednesday.
A state pension plan for Florida teachers held 41,129 shares in American Outdoor Brands Co. valued at more than a half-million dollars, according to a Dec. 31 securities filing listing the plan’s holdings. Formerly known as Smith & Wesson, Springfield, Massachusetts-based American Outdoors manufactured the semiautomatic AR-15 assault rifle that was used in the Feb. 14 attack on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The securities filing, posted on the pension plan’s web site, shows that the Florida Retirement System Pension Plan also invested in gun company stock issued by Sturm & Ruger Co., Vista Outdoor Inc. and Olin Corp. All of these companies manufacture firearms or ammunition, including assault rifles.
As of June 2017, more than half of the 405,000 participants in the Florida Retirement System were employed by educational institutions, according to its 2017 annual report. The fund had a $528,000 holding in American Outdoor Brands, which included $306,000 in unrealized profit as of Dec. 31, according to the quarterly filing, making it a long-term investor in the company. (The investment is a small fraction of the fund’s $154 billion portfolio.)
Nikolas Cruz, 19, the alleged shooter and a former student at the Parkland high school, purchased the AR-15 legally, police said. Students at the school who escaped have been calling for gun control measures on social media and in news interviews. They were scheduled to attend a gun-safety reform rally Tuesday in Tallahassee, the state capital, hosted by the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. The Florida State Board of Administration, or SBA, which manages the teachers’ pension fund, is also based there.
“As fiduciaries, the SBA must act solely in the interest of the participants and beneficiaries,” John Kuczwanski, a spokesman for the agency, said in an emailed statement. “As primarily passive investors, we essentially own the entire market subject to any legal limitations.”
The Florida Education Association, a state affiliate of two national teachers’ unions, didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment.
Following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, in which 26 elementary school students and teachers were gunned down, CalSTRS and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System sold off their stakes in both Sturm Ruger and Smith & Wesson.