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California retirement fund faces pressure to sell gun-related stocks

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Guns sit on a table during a gun buy-back event in Miami, Florida on March 17, 2018. (AFP photo)

Families of mass shooting victims in the United States are calling on America’s largest state pension fund to stop investing in companies that sell rifles and devices that allow guns to fire more rapidly.

The families are joining California State Treasurer John Chiang to urge the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) to sell its stock in companies that sell "military-style assault weapons" and devices such as bump stocks that help simulate automatic weapons.

Chiang, a candidate for governor of California, spoke Monday at a CalPERS board meeting alongside family members of people who have died in recent mass shootings in California.

"Enough is enough," Chiang told The Associated Press in an interview. "You have to go to what moves people and we know money moves people.”

The mass shooting in February at a high school in Parkland, Florida, has sparked fresh efforts to increase financial pressure on the National Rifle Association (NRA) and companies that make and sell guns.

"We keep having these mass shootings," said Robert Velasco, whose 27-year-old daughter was killed in the 2015 terror attack that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California.

"If we can encourage them to divest in companies, wholesalers and retailers, of these types of weapons it could send a message throughout the country to other institutional pensions to do the same," he said.

CalPERS manages the largest public pension fund in the United States, with $354 billion in assets. It has roughly $850 in million holdings in several US retailers that sell guns.

Using divestment to make political statements is a popular tactic in California. The states of New York, Connecticut and Illinois are also discussing divesting from gun-related companies.

Last month, a host of US companies ranging from airlines to car rentals to hotel groups joined the #BoycottNRA online campaign in the aftermath of the Florida high school shooting.

The companies said they were no longer offering discounted trips to NRA members.

Companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, and FedEx have also come under pressure from gun control supporters to boycott the NRA but have yet to make any move.

Gun control advocates are demanding members of the US Congress to pass gun control legislation, which has always been opposed and foiled by the NRA.

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