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California teachers pension fund threatens companies financially over gun control issues
The California Teachers' Retirement System plans to use its financial leverage to persuade companies to stop selling assault weapons and bump stocks. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

California teachers pension fund threatens companies financially over gun control issues

The California State Teachers' Retirement System will use its financial leverage to target board members and companies that don't conform to stricter gun control standards, CBS News reported.

The pension fund, one of the largest in the nation, voted to take a number of actions Wednesday. Those actions included attempting to unseat board members at resisting companies and to dump those companies' stock.

"If Congress and state houses are either unwilling or unable to pass sensible policies to stop our schoolyards, work sites and places of worship from becoming killing fields, then let's take the battle to where the money is," said state Treasurer John Chiang to the Investment Committee.

What's the story?

CalSTRS's decision was approved by unanimous vote in the Investment Committee on Wednesday, with the support of Chiang, who is running for governor. Chiang is also a panel member on the committee.

The plan is for CalSTRS to put pressure on all the companies it invests in to stop selling firearms and gun accessories that are illegal in California.

CalSTRS will hire two full-time employees whose job it is to persuade the companies to stop selling assault weapons. If that fails, CalSTRS would vote against all members of the violating companies' governing boards. The two staff members will reportedly be paid a total of $280,000 per year.

If a company still doesn't change its policies after that, CalSTRS will begin a review process into whether it should divest from the company. One of the considerations during that review process is whether divesting would prevent CalSTRS from paying pension benefits.

California lawmakers will also work on a bill that would force the California Public Employees' Retirement System to adopt an plan to divest from gun sellers who don't meet the demands by July 2021.

CalSTRS's portfolio includes holdings in Walmart and Kroger, both of whom have or currently are making changes to their gun policies.

Bullying and coercion?

Firearms Policy Coalition spokesman Craig DeLuz told CBS News he believes the move by CalSTRS goes too far.

"Lawmakers are moving beyond unconstitutionally regulating guns and toward using the force of government to bully and coerce the market," DeLuz said. "This isn't a slippery slope. It's a cliff that hostile government actors are forcing people and businesses to walk off."

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