After each horrific mass shooting that happens all too frequently, many Americans turn to social media to decry the nation’s lax gun regulations and the NRA’s influence on the political process. Next time you feel this way, do the minimum amount you should be doing to make sure you aren’t complicit: Make sure your own money isn’t invested in the gun industry.
A new campaign and website called Goodbye Gun Stocks makes it easy to make sure that your retirement funds and investment portfolios don’t contain stocks from gun and ammo manufacturers and retailers. It covers more than 12,000 stock funds (and Thrifty Savings Plans for federal employees) based on SEC data, which amounts to $5.9 trillion in investments. Of those assets, $17.3 billion is invested in the consumer gun industry—or 35% of U.S. stock funds. The popular Vanguard funds, for example, hold $5.9 billion in these stocks, the site says.
The site was created by Keywon Chung and Michael Shilman, the designers behind the investment app Hello Money, in collaboration with New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. Type in the name of an investment fund, and it will show the percentage invested in nine public gun-associated companies. If you type in your specific value invested, it personalizes the results. It will also suggest alternative funds that are similar, with on par or better performance, that have no—or at least fewer—gun stocks. It allows side-by-side comparisons of different funds to make it simple to reduce gun exposure.
Not everyone will agree with the stocks included as "gun stocks," which is why the site allows people to differentiate between gun makers and gun retailers. Smith & Wesson, which makes weapons, and Olin, which makes ammunition, are clearly gun companies. The retailers side of the equation includes companies like Walmart—which though it is the largest seller of guns and ammo in the entire country (about half of its stores sell them) is not primarily in the gun business. Other retailers include the chains Dick’s Sporting Goods and Cabala’s.
Despite the pressure the Obama administration has tried to put on the industry—or perhaps because of it—guns have been a great investment in the last few years. Sales are up, and since 2012 when the Sandy Hook mass shooting happened, gun maker stocks have done well. Smith & Wesson is up about 320%. And divesting isn't always easy—President Obama's pension fund even owns gun stock.
Goodbye Guns is an experiment that the creators say will be available for 30 days. Another site to check is Unload Your 401K, which lets you enter your 401K provider and makes an educated guess as to whether your savings contain gun stocks.
All Images: courtesy Goodbye Gun Stocks