Teachers in California, resisting calls that they should be armed in the classroom with something more than their lesson plans, are taking a stand against guns by aiming one of their most potent weapons—their wallets.
The California State Teachers Retirement System, known as Calstrs, voted last week to divest itself of firearms holdings. Teachers don’t want their retirement funds linked to companies that manufacture guns, including The Freedom Group, the maker of the Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle used to kill 26 children and adults in Newton, CT.
California teachers pulled their pensions from tobacco stocks in 2008, and while the amount going to guns is small relative to the entire portfolio– $12 million out of a total $154 billion, the move sets an example for other states and allows teachers to take an active part in reducing access to guns.
As a college student in the late l970’s, I remember the big issue on campus was divesting college funds from South Africa as a way to protest apartheid. I joined protests and wore an armband at graduation. A decade later, in 1988, Vassar divested completely from its South African holdings. The nationwide campaign resulted in federal legislation that is credited with forcing the South African government to dismantle apartheid.
Arming teachers and placing armed guards in schools isn’t the answer. Curbing access to guns suitable for battlefields is.
New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are examining their public pension portfolios and considering divesting from gun manufacturers. Let’s hope others follow their example. Let’s hope it doesn’t take a decade or more tragedies to act.