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Nevada will divest public funds from gun makers after Texas shooting

Updated June 2, 2022 - 8:02 pm

Nevada will begin to divest all public funds from companies that manufacture or sell assault weapons, state Treasurer Zach Conine announced Thursday.

The announcement comes as a direct response to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 students and two adults last week.

“We have a moral obligation not just to offer thoughts and prayers, but to act,” Conine said in a video statement. “And we have a financial obligation to rid ourselves of investments that carry this much risk.”

The treasurer’s office handles nearly $50 billion in public investments, $89 million of which the office plans to divest because of this policy shift. Conine announced that no positions will be sold at a loss and that any unprofitable positions will be held until they expire but not be repurchased.

Investment in assault weapons manufacturers and retailers carries too high of a financial and moral risk, Conine said.

“An investment is a plan for the future, an agreement to give up a little bit of opportunity now for a little bit more opportunity down the road,” he said. “What opportunities exist for the victims of gun violence? What opportunities exist for the parents and grandparents dealing with unimaginable loss? What future plans were snuffed out as innocent children and teachers were slaughtered in a classroom by a weapon that belongs on a battlefield?”

Conine has been preparing the policy for a while and is now following the treasurers of Connecticut and Rhode Island, which divested their states’ public funds from gun manufacturers in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Many state and local pension funds nationwide have done the same. Conine said he believes that financially, gun manufacturer stocks will perform poorly because of rising pushback against gun violence.

“The nation has an absolute pandemic of gun violence. I believe there’s been 103 mass shootings since 1 October (2017) with Uvalde, and we’ve had more since,” Conine said. “The risk of these assets from an investment perspective continues to expand. Each day, they become riskier investments so the sooner we get this done, the better off the state’s finances are going to be.”

The new policy will directly impact four of the five funds managed by the treasurer’s office. It will be implemented for the $530 million permanent school fund immediately and then for the state’s $7.2 billion general portfolio, the $2.4 billion local government investment pool and the $400 million Nevada Higher Education Prepaid Tuition Trust after approval by the state Board of Finance. The treasurer’s office will also encourage the trustees who oversee the state’s $39 billion college savings plans to implement the policy too.

The plan will be presented for formal adoption to the state Board of Finance and the Board of Trustees of the College Savings Plans of Nevada later this month.

Conine, a Democrat elected in 2018, is running for re-election this November. Among his potential Republican opponents is Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore, who opposes gun control measures and ran a viral television add firing a handgun in the Nevada desert during a short-lived campaign for governor before she switched to the treasurer’s race.

Conine isn’t afraid of making this a campaign issue if his eventual opponent chooses.

“I don’t think this is a political statement at all. I think it is a rational statement,” he said. “If (my opponent) wants to make this a political issue and they don’t want to make this state safer for our kids, then God bless them. But that’s not the Nevada I want to live in.”

Contact Nick Robertson at NRobertson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @NickRobertsonSU.

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