Weapons & Safety
Once again, our nation is struggling to explain senseless violence. The terrifying scenes from the mass-shooting in Las Vegas are both heartbreaking yet appallingly routine dispatches from an epidemic of violence. An epidemic that we allow to persist.
There have been over 1,500 mass shootings in the U.S. since December 2012 when a gunman entered an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and killed twenty children, six adults and himself. These events mine the very depth of our collective grief yet somehow no new federal gun-control legislation was enacted as a result.
The political stasis around gun-control is largely due to the political power of manufacturers who market increasingly lethal guns for the purpose of self-protection rather than hunting or recreation. On June 12, 2016, a gunman armed with high-capacity assault rifles killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando. The shooting was, until this week, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Between the Orlando nightclub shooting and the attack in Las Vegas on Sunday there were 521 mass-shootings yet zero changes to toughen our federal gun-control laws.
After the killing this week, our leaders and representatives will likely echo the same “shock, sadness and call for unity.” But what will ultimately come of it? Will we continue allowing open and easy access to automatic weapons in this country, where there is already roughly one gun per person? Will our politicians continue to be swayed by companies that use fear to push military-grade assault weapons into the hands of the public? Were those senselessly killed and injured in Las Vegas on Sunday simply paying the “price of freedom”? The answer must be no.
Over the past few months, I have been spending some time researching schools around my neighborhood in Brooklyn, as next year I will need to decide what school I would like my son to attend. As I am sure all moms do, I had prepared plenty of questions, and I was ready to discuss every possible detail with the school staff. Or at least so I thought. There was one issue I had not anticipated would be part of the conversation, and I became extremely uncomfortable the moment I realized it was something that needed to be discussed: lockdown drills.
According to the Congressional Research Service, there are currently more guns than people in the U.S., and the production of firearms in our country is increasing every year. In 2013, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, 11 million guns were produced in the U.S., twice as many as were produced the previous year. These numbers are simply staggering, and things get even scarier when we consider how easy it is to access firearms in our country. The U.S. has a higher firearm homicide rate than Pakistan, and is doing just barely better than the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Just to draw a comparison, in 1996 Australia decided to enact nationwide gun law after 35 people were killed in a mass shooting at an historic tourist site in Tasmania. Under the leadership of Prime Minister John Howard, rapid-fire rifles and shotguns were banned, licenses became more difficult to obtain, and a national buyback program was implemented to incentivize gun owners surrender their weapons. The country has not had a mass shooting since enactment of the reform.
I dread the idea of having to explain to my by-then-four-year-old why, should a lockdown drill happen while he is in the bathroom, he needs to stand on a toilet and silently pretend he is not there, as he will be instructed to do by the school staff.
I hope that, in a couple of years, things will be different and there will no longer be the need for me and other parents to have such terrible conversations with our little ones.
But we can do more than just keep hoping. We can and should take collective action to help change this shameful situation. While there are many things that will need to happen on a national level to produce significant change on the issue, there is one very simple thing we can all do on a personal level to make sure that we are not part of the problem, and that is to align our investments with our personal values and consider whether we want to hold companies involved in the production of firearms in our investment and retirement accounts.
The Domini Funds have a longstanding policy to avoid investment in gun manufacturers. Learn more about Domini’s policy on firearms and weapons manufacturers.
Domini has a longstanding policy to avoid investment in the manufacturers of weapons, including military weapons and civilian firearms. This policy extends to firms that derive a significant percentage of revenues from the sale of firearms. We believe this industry is inherently damaging to society, due to the intersection between a particularly dangerous product and the extraordinary pressures to maximize profits and increase market share—pressures which are exponentially heightened for publicly traded companies.
There are very few publicly traded gun and ammunition manufacturers. Most gun manufacturers are private—they are owned by private equity firms, which pump money into expanding their markets. The ultimate challenge facing the industry today is to expand a market where an estimated 70-80 million Americans already collectively own 300 million firearms.
In response, the industry has undertaken a strategy focused on designing and marketing military-style semiautomatic weapons for the civilian market. A detailed study released by the Violence Policy Center, a gun control group, found that “the flood of militarized weapons exemplifies the firearms industry’s strategy of marketing enhanced lethality, or killing power, to stimulate sales.”
Distressingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, much of this marketing has been targeted at children and teens. The New York Times reported, “Threatened by long-term declining participation in shooting sports, the firearms industry has poured millions of dollars into a broad campaign to ensure its future by getting guns into the hands or more, and younger, children.” The editor of Junior Shooters magazine noted that if the industry is to survive, gun enthusiasts must embrace all youth shooting activities, including ones, “using semiautomatic firearms with magazines holding 30-100 rounds.”
Many of our shareholders may be pacifists, or opposed to hunting. Their investment in our funds may be seen as a reflection of these personal commitments. Other Domini Funds shareholders may be hunters or sharpshooters. Their avoidance of gun-makers through their investment in our funds may be seen as a recognition that the stock market is not a safe mechanism to finance the makers of such inherently dangerous products. Either way, our shareholders understand the importance of taking full responsibility for the implications of their investment decisions.
- De-Militarizing Amazon.com
- Let's stop investing our retirement funds in lethal weapons
- Divesting is an exercise in real fiduciary care