Students Rising Up!

Students Rising Up!

Congratulations to the University of California, Santa Barbara students and their peers at UC, Irvine! Both student governments recently voted to pass a resolution demanding the $88 billion university endowment be completely divested from the gun industry.

Student resolutions at both schools named three publicly traded gun companies (Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger, and Olin), Cerberus Capital Management (owner of Freedom Group, maker of the assault weapon used in the Sandy Hook School massacre in December 2012), and Cabela’s (a firearms retailer and major donor to the NRA).

The resolutions further demanded transparency from the university’s Chief Investment Officer about past investments in the gun industry, and a formal ban on investments in these companies in the future.

“I grew up in a community where children and families of color disproportionately suffer from gun violence,” said Paola Dela Cruz, the student senator who introduced the resolution. “As I transitioned into college, my new community was faced with a gun violence tragedy. I am proud of the UCSB Associated Students Senate for passing this resolution and taking a positive step towards preventing gun violence.”

Read Bob Weiss’s (father of Veronika Weiss, who was murdered in the Isla Vista Shooting) statement to the University of California on why it should divest.

For more on the movement to DivestGuns from college endowments, go here.

Read our press release and the resolution passed by AS Senate at UCSB.

Father of Murdered Student to the University of California: “Divest now!”

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To honor classmates murdered in the Isla Vista Shooting, students at the University of California – Santa Barbara took a bold stand against gun violence and voted to ban investments in the gun industry.

The following is a statement from Bob Weiss, the father of Veronika Weiss who was murdered in the shooting. It was read at the Associated Students’ vote by UCSB student, Sydney: 

On the evening of Friday, May 23rd, my daughter and 2 friends were walking back to their Sorority House from dinner in Isla Vista.  A troubled young man with 3 guns and 400 rounds of ammunition pulled up to the curb in his car, unrolled his window and fired 17 shots at the three girls.  Katie was shot in the eye and died almost instantly. 

Veronika was hit 7 times. The bullet that killed Veronika entered the side of her chest and traversed her upper body, destroying both her lungs and heart. She died about 15 minutes later, drowning in her own blood. 

Bianca, the third student, sustained several wounds, fortunately, none lethal.  She survived.  

The agony of losing our beloved daughter is constant and unbearable. Our lives will never be the same. The pain is indescribable and relentless. Our lives are shattered. 

As parents of a victim of a gun violence murder at a University of California it sickens us that the University could be invested in firearm manufacturers.

With over 30,000 gun-related deaths every year and school shootings occurring almost monthly, the gun industry has blood on its hands.  The University of California should act as a leader and ban investments in the gun industry. Divest now!

We Won! Jay Leno Cancels Appearance at Gun Industry Trade Show

We Won! Jay Leno Cancels Appearance at Gun Industry Trade Show

A brief campaign by three gun violence prevention groups — Campaign to Unload, Newtown Action Alliance, and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence — succeeded in convincing Mark Twain Award-winning comedian Jay Leno to pull out of a planned performance at the gun industry’s largest trade show. Congratulations to all the activists who pressured Mr. Leno via our petition and social media. Your voices were heard!

From Mother Jones’ Tim Murphy:

Update: Late Wednesday, Jay Leno said in a brief phone interview that he had called the National Shooting Sports Foundation to cancel his scheduled performance at the SHOT Show. He also said that he’d spoken with Po Murray of the Newtown Action Alliance to let her know. “I understand it’s Newtown, and of course I get it,” Leno told Mother Jones. “It’s just sometimes, mistakes get made.”

Campaign to Unload’s statement: “I’m grateful that Jay has seen the NSSF for what it really is: a corporate lobbying group that puts money over morality, no matter how many families are destroyed by its products,” said executive director Jennifer Fiore.

Here’s the original petition: Tell Jay Leno: Cancel Your Appearance at the 2015 SHOT Show

3 Very Scary Facts about the Gun Industry that Should Have You Spooked

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Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes via Flickr

Even though it’s Halloween, this could be the scariest thing you read all day:

1. The gun industry is profiting from gun violence.
Often after mass shootings, gun sales rise. The gun industry is making money from our tragedies.

2. Congress has failed to pass common-sense gun laws that would help make our communities safer and the gun industry is to blame.
Every year, millions of dollars are funneled to the NRA by irresponsible gun companies to block gun reform – companies like Sturm Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Olin. Even Cerberus, who said it would sell its stake in Freedom Group, failed to keep its promise and even appointed executives who finance ads which attack Connecticut Governor Malloy for fighting to enact gun safety measures.

3. Your money may be helping to fuel the gun violence epidemic in the US. 
Many individuals, pensions, and university endowments are invested in these irresponsible gun companies. You could be helping to fund the industry profiting from violence and not even know it.

Young Americans are paying the price for weak gun laws. Stand up to the gun industry by taking action NOW: 

  • Support students who are demanding their universities stop investing in gun violence
  • Check out our toolkit to learn how you can take action on your campus
  • Join the conversation on Twitter by using the DivestGuns hashtag
  • On November 4th vote for candidates who believe in common-sense gun reform

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Take Action at the UC Divestment Campaign Page

Students at the University of California Santa Barbara, in honor of their fellow students murdered and injured in Isla Vista, demand from the University of California transparency of its $88 billion endowment and a ban on all future investments in the gun industry. Pledge to stand with UCSB.

How UC-Santa Barbara Can Turn Grief Into Action: Divest from Gun Manufacturers

How UC-Santa Barbara Can Turn Grief Into Action: Divest from Gun Manufacturers

by Peter Dreier and Jennifer Fiore
The Nation
May 27, 2014

Students and faculty at the University of California–Santa Barbara are understandably in shock after the murder of six innocent people Friday in the Isla Vista community that borders the campus. Over the next few weeks, there will be many memorial services, tributes and other events to remember the victims and provide family and friends with opportunities to mourn. But if UCSB students, alumni, faculty and staff want to channel their feelings into constructive action, here’s a suggestion: ask the University of California Regents if its $88 billion endowment is contributing to gun violence by being invested in gun companies that fund the National Rifle Association (NRA) and obstruct common-sense gun policies. If it is, they should demand that the UC system divest itself from these merchants of death.

America mourns with the families affected by this latest mass shooting. We face the responsibility to work together to stop this madness.

“Not one more,” said a heartbroken Richard Martinez, the day after his 20-year-old Christopher, a UCSB student, was killed in the Isla Vista tragedy. “Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live?

The following day, Martinez made additional comments: “There’s a tendency to think that this was a madman and that we can’t do anything about it. I think that’s an easy out. I don’t believe it. I know this is a complicated problem but I do believe it has a solution.

Martinez is right. There is a solution, and it starts with putting economic pressure on the gun industry. The companies that manufacture guns and ammunition and the NRA are responsible for the United States having the weakest gun laws among modern democracies. Last April, a few months after the Sandy Hook massacre, the gun lobby killed legislation to extend background checks for gun sales, ban assault weapons and limit the size of guns’ ammunition magazines.

The NRA has even used its political clout to block medical and academic research that would help us understand and end the epidemic of gun violence. According to ProPublica, “Since 1996, when a small CDC-funded study on the risks of owning a firearm ignited opposition from Republicans, the CDC’s budget for research on firearms injuries has shrunk to zero.” Last week, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) filed a bill that would fund the CDC research. The NRA issued a statement calling Markey’s bill “unethical” and an “abuse of taxpayer funds for anti-gun political propaganda under the guise of ‘research.’”

Although the NRA likes to portray itself as representing grassroots gun owners, only about 4 million of the 90 million American gun owners are NRA members. The bulk of the NRA’s money comes from gun and ammo manufacturers that donate millions of dollars to further political obstructionism and fear-mongering among a small but vocal minority of gun owners. The gun makers’ profits—and the profits of Walmart (the nation’s largest seller of guns and ammunition) and other retailers—grow when there are few restrictions on the sale and ownership of guns and ammunition.

“There is a lot of profit to be made for all of this sorrow, all of this death, and all of this destruction,” said Dr. Sheldon Teperman, director of trauma surgery at the Jacobi Medical Center in New York City, who routinely deals with gunshot victims and who was interviewed for a video urging people to unload gun companies from their 401k investments.

The gun industry—led by Remington Outdoor, Sturm Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Olin—has profited, even as more Americans die by the products they manufacture and aggressively market. The value of these companies has grown significantly just as the rate of mass shootings has increased.

Cerberus Capital Management owns Freedom Group, maker of the Bushmaster XM-15, which Adam Lanza used at Sandy Hook Elementary School to massacre twenty children and six educators in minutes. Cerberus promised to sell the gun maker, but after eighteen months it has not yet done so.

Sturm Ruger is the manufacturer of assault weapons banned in California and in 2012 donated over $1.25 million to the NRA through a program of selling guns and donating $1 for each gun to the lobby group.

Smith & Wesson is the maker of the assault weapon used in the Aurora, Colorado, and LAX airport shootings and the semiautomatic pistol used at the recent Fort Hood shooting. Smith & Wesson recently gave the NRA a check for $600,000 to continue its work promoting guns and gun culture.

Olin owns Winchester Ammunition, an NRA donor of between $500,000 and $1 million and maker of ammunition intended to quickly expand inside the body, leading to greater human damage.

By divesting from these companies, we bring a new kind of pressure to bear on the forces of obstruction that Martinez called out. Divestment was a useful tool in the anti-apartheid efforts in the 1980s and again in bringing the tobacco industry to the table in the 1990s.

University endowments play a special role here, given the escalation of gun violence in our school and college campuses. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, at least seventy-two shootings have occurred on school campuses in the seventeen months since the Sandy Hook massacre. In 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, gun deaths—homicides, suicides and accidents—were the second-highest reason for death of young people ages 15–24, after only automobile accidents, according to a recent Center for American Progress report. Universities should lead to ensure that they do not further the epidemic of gun violence by financially supporting the companies that profit from the devastation of young people’s lives.

That is beginning to happen. In February, Occidental College became the first higher education institution to pledge to stay away from any investments in companies that manufacture military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines for general public sale. The college’s trustees did so at the urging of faculty and students who were horrified by the epidemic of gun violence, including those at schools and universities across the country. It turned out that Occidental’s endowment did not have investments in such companies, but its board’s policy ensured that it would not add any such stocks to its portfolio in the future.

Last year, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), both large public pension funds, moved to divest from manufacturers of assault weapons. The University of California endowment is one of the largest in the country. If the UC system announced a similar policy, it would have a huge impact, inspiring other universities to follow its example.

Media coverage of the Isla Vista tragedy has primarily focused on the details of the rampage, the mental problems, loneliness and anti-women manifesto of killer Elliot Rodger, and the grieving of the families and friends of Rodger’s victims. Rodger was seriously mentally ill. So was Adam Lanza. There are lots of such people in this world. But if we make it easy for them to obtain guns, they are more likely to translate their psychological problems into dangerous and deadly anti-social behavior.

Guns are a large part of American culture. Few object to the manufacture and sale of rifles used in hunting, a sport that millions of Americans enjoy relatively safely. But according to a CBS News poll last December, 85 percent of all Americans—including 84 percent of Republicans, 92 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of independents and 84 percent of gun owners—favor a federal law requiring background checks on all potential gun buyers.

Some will point out that Rodger passed background checks and purchased his Glock 34 and SIG Sauers weapons legally. That simply suggests that we should made it much more difficult for people to purchase assault weapons. In fact, a Rasmussen Reports survey in December revealed that 59 percent of likely US voters think there should be a ban on the purchase of semi-automatic and assault-type weapons. Only 33 percent disagree.

That’s the only way to prevent mass killings like we witnessed in at Sandy Hook Elementary, at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech University and last week in Isla Vista.

Our communities—especially students from kindergarten through university—are bearing the brunt of gun violence while corporate executives reap the financial rewards. Our institutions of higher learning should not profit from the violence that is wracked upon their students, whom schools are pledged to care for.

Toward that end, the University of California should join with major pension funds, unions, religious organizations and individuals by withdrawing its investments from gun manufacturers that profit from the violence wracked on our schoolchildren. We can stop the madness. We can learn from this horror, and even as we grieve, we can move forward.

Unload Your 401K: Activists Launch Campaign to Defund Gun Makers

A new front is opening today in the fight against gun violence: divestment. Today, a coalition of more than twenty well-known national organizations, led by Campaign to Unload and States United to Prevent Gun Violence, are launching a new hard-hitting campaign to defund gun manufacturers: “Unload Your 401K.” Their message: “You might be invested in gun companies and not even realize it.”

“Unload Your 401K” features a new tactic, divestment of stock in gun companies, and a new tool to empower the public to take action. UnloadYour401k, which launches today, will empower people upset with gun violence to stop financially supporting guns. The campaign will target Sturm Ruger (RGR), Smith & Wesson (SWHC), and Olin (OLN). Nearly half the value of these three companies comes from mutual funds.

The website includes a powerful short film that brings together family members of those killed or wounded in Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and everyday gun violence.

See the short film here.

“Divestment is a new front in the war against America’s epidemic of gun violence,” said Jennifer Fiore, Executive Director of Campaign to Unload. “It’s time to defund the companies that profit from gun violence and obstruct the political change that would end it. Over 51 million Americans have a 401K retirement plan that could be contributing to the gun lobby– driving wealth to gun manufacturers and funding efforts that have stalled all action in Congress.”

“People horrified by Sandy Hook and Columbine are financially supporting the gun industry, and with today’s launch they will have the tools to fight back,” adds Sue Hornik, Executive Director of States United.

Divestment can be a powerful tool for change — playing a huge part in the end of Apartheid in South Africa and in changing tobacco policy in the US. People don’t want to financially support industries that cause harm– and divestment allows opponents of gun violence a key pathway to express, act, and organize on their concerns.

“When my son was shot and killed at Columbine, my world was turned upside down,” said Tom Mauser of Littleton, CO, whose story is featured in the new ‘Unload Your 401K’ video. “The idea that my retirement investments could be supporting this irresponsible industry — could be supporting the industry that has vigorously fought reasonable gun safety laws — is devastating. Divestment is an essential tool to fight back against this senseless gun violence and the wealthy gun makers driving it.”

“Gun companies are getting rich off manufacturing people killers, and I want no part of it,” concluded Lori Haas, whose daughter survived the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007.

# # #

The Campaign to Unload is a national coalition of 50 leaders and organizations representing over 20 million Americans calling for divestiture from the gun industry. Find us on Facebook and Twitter.

States United to Prevent Gun Violence is a national non-profit organization dedicated to making our families and communities safer. Together with our 27 state affiliates, States United is working to build healthy communities by reducing gun death and injury through stronger laws, education and grassroots action.

5 Reasons Why to DivestGuns Now

STUDENTS: Congress is stalled but we do not have to wait for government to make the call for “not one more” real. There is a path forward: Divestment.

1) Young Americans are paying the price for Congress’s failure to act on gun reform.

In 2010, gun deaths were the second highest reason for death of young people ages 15–24, and by 2015 gun deaths will replace automobile accidents as the leading cause of death for Millennials. There have been 74 school and campus shootings since Newtown alone.


2) The NRA, with funding from irresponsible gun companies, obstructs legislative change.

Freedom Group, Sturm Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Olin, profit from America’s tragedies. Millions of dollars are funneled to the NRA to block gun reform, money invested in gun companies by individuals, pensions, and university endowments. Our money is being used to block common-sense gun reform.

 

3) Divestment works.

Economic pressure on the gun industry is crucial to ending political stagnancy, as it did to end the Apartheid regime in South Africa. As Eric Milgram, father of two Sandy Hook Elementary survivors, stated, “gun companies won’t respond to moral sentiment, but they will respond to economic pain.” For this reason the divestment movement is being called “the new front in the war on gun violence.”

 

4) The movement to divest guns is taking off.

  • We’ve only just begun and are already getting a lot of attention and finding success.
  • In 2013 hedge funds divested more than $171 million from the gun industry
  • New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Rhode Island, have divested their municipal and pension funds, as did the largest pension fund, CalSTRS (California State Teaching Retirement System)
  • Many individuals are divesting their retirement funds using UnloadYour401k
  • Occidental College banned investments in assault weapons manufacturers in February, 2014
  • Student-led movements at Princeton and University of Pennsylvania have formed to demand their universities’ endowments divest guns

 

5) Together, young Americans can amplify their voices to create change.

Action from students is critical to reducing gun violence:

  • Join UC-Santa Barbara students to pressure the University of California to divest its endowment funds.
  • Learn how UCSB can turn “grief into action” — op-ed by Campaign to Unload
  • Sign the petition to tell UC to take a clear stance against investing in gun violence
  • Join the conversation by using #DivestGuns on social media
  • Start a divestment campaign on your campus. Contact us to learn how to get started.

Future on Lockdown

Future on Lockdown

Amanda Szkutak is a recent graduate of the George Washington University and a Program Associate at Campaign to Unload 

When I begin to hear the news of a mass shooting outside of the UCSB campus, I am upset and horrified– but not shocked. The gunman, a UC-Santa Barbara student, terrorized the campus town, killing 6 students shortly after declaring his intention to seek “retribution” in a YouTube video. It sounds like a nightmare but, more and more, gun violence has become a very real part of students’ lives.

Due to our “failures of legislative and moral courage… we ask our kids to pile themselves silently into their classroom closets, and we tell them this is what freedom looks like.”

-Dahlia Lithwick, “Lockdown Nation”

In school I was taught that the only thing stopping a bad guy with a gun was a locked classroom door and a school desk. We practiced monthly for potential tragedy. An announcement would come over the loudspeaker; we would close the blinds, lock the door, hide under our desks, and wait.

As an adult, I look back on these experiences with bewilderment. Why hadn’t I been more scared? Maybe it was because as a student in a post-Columbine America intruder drills had become a mundane routine. Like fire drills, intruder drills were seen as a break from math class, a time to pass notes and whisper under the desks. We would shuffle through the motions in a manner completely detached from reality of a school shooting which can only be pure, unimaginable terror.

The issue is that lockdown drills are a symptom of, not a solution to, the gun violence problem. Even more troubling, these drills are teaching generations of students, that not only are school shootings natural but an unavoidable reality like fires or a natural disasters- an uncontrollable force, an act of God. This attitude discourages action even as gun violence worsens for students.

There is, however, an even deeper irony to lockdown drills, in that we use the same line of logic when attempting to address the greater question of how to prevent gun violence. We pretend it’s routine, unavoidable. We hide from the issue. We remain silent. We wait. We hope that the intruder won’t turn the handle on our classroom door, our community.

Richard Martinez, the grief-stricken father of one of the victims of the ‪Isla Vista shooting, put out an emotional call for reform, sickened that the NRA and Congress continue to “tolerate” and “normalize” mass murder. Yet this idea, that these tragedies are somehow “normal,” goes even further – underpinning our culture on guns and the way schools are teaching students to see gun violence.

Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown – these tragedies should weigh heavy on the American conscious, as lawmakers have still not taken meaningful action to address gun violence against young Americans. The death of 6 students outside the UCSB campus only provides further proof that Millennials are paying the price for these legislative failures in blood.

There have been 72 school and campus shootings since Newtown alone.

This is the America students go to school in. Yet, rather than enact common-sense laws regarding guns, Congress has taken no decisive action and has been met by an indifferent American public. Both financial pressure and public outrage are needed to end this political stagnancy and gun industry irresponsibility. Campaigns such as the recent push for UCSB to divest from gun manufacturers can accomplish both.

More importantly, however, we need to decide, as a society, that community safety is a priority or we will continue to condemn future generations to remain part of the cycle of violence by teaching students that a solution doesn’t exist.

As a recent college graduate, I look out on the America where students go to school and my heart sinks. Every day I read clinical, statistic filled articles on Millennial gun deaths and school shootings that fail to capture the tragedy and horror. I recall a photo taken by a student at Kent State and I try to imagine what hiding, scared for your life, would be like. I didn’t feel the terror under that classroom desk 10 years ago but I feel it now.

The demand for “Not one more” has been heard too many times before. Yet, I hope Richard Martinez’s call to “stop this madness” is heard, because ultimately he’s right: “We don’t have to live this way.”