by Kevin Short
…On April 29, Campaign to Unload launched Unload Your 401(k), a website that lets people see if their 401(k) retirement plan invests in publicly traded gun companies. Roughly half the shares of the three companies are held by mutual funds and institutional investors. The goal is to prompt people to invest their money elsewhere.
It’s a similar strategy to that once employed against South African apartheid. In the 1980s, colleges, institutional investors and local governments were pressured to stop investing in companies affiliated with the apartheid regime. Public pressure mounted, and eventually the U.S. government banned investment in South African companies and barred many imports from the country. The divestment and sanctions undermined the South African economy, helping lead to the fall of apartheid several years later.
Similar movements have pushed for divestment from tobacco and fossil fuel companies, with varying levels of success.
“When people learn they might be invested in a company that helps to perpetuate senseless gun violence, it’s a horrifying thought,” said Cathie Whittenburg, communications director for States United to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the organizations behind the latest campaign.
Smith & Wesson; Sturm, Ruger & Co.; and Olin Corporation did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.
Jennifer Fiore, executive director of the Campaign to Unload, told HuffPost Live on Tuesday that the idea for the campaign came after years of watching federal inaction on gun control. Despite the fact that roughly 90 percent of Americans then supported expanded background checks before gun sales, last year bills to expand background checks, ban assault weapons and ban high-capacity gun magazines all died in the Senate.
“We started to look at opportunities for creating change that didn’t rely on Congress and the obstructionist gun lobby that was making sure nothing happened,” Fiore told HuffPost Live.