SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The nation's largest teacher pension fund took the first step Wednesday toward divesting from companies that make guns and high-capacity ammunition magazines that are illegal in California.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer made a motion to begin the divestment process after pension fund officials determined that the fund invests in the owner of a company that manufactured one of the weapons used in the Connecticut school shooting. The California State Teachers' Retirement System's investment committee unanimously approved the motion.

"CalSTRS' action targets ammunition clips that turn ordinary guns into killing machines, assault weapons and other firearms that pose extreme dangers to public health and safety," Lockyer said.

The pension fund has investments in private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP, which owns the manufacturer of an assault weapon used at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The pension fund also owns shares of Sturm, Ruger & Co. and Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., two publicly traded gun-makers.

The three investments make up a tiny fraction of the pension system's holdings, about $11.7 million out of the $155 billion fund, according to CalSTRS staff.

Harry Keiley, a high school teacher with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and chairman of the board's investment committee, said before Wednesday's vote that the pension board has the power to change its investments.

After the shooting, Keiley said: "I sat there with all of my thoughts and feeling very powerless knowing that I don't sit on the Supreme Court, I don't cast a vote in the United States Congress, I don't sit in the state Legislature. I'm a school teacher and dad. And then it dawned on me ... that I and this board are not powerless."

Staff will meet with the companies and determine the impact divesting would have on the pension system. They'll report back to the board at an unspecified date.

Cerberus has said it is attempting to sell its stake in Freedom Group International, which makes the .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle used in the school shooting.

Lockyer also wants the California Public Employees' Retirement System, the nation's largest public pension fund, to divest from companies that make the types of weapons and high-capacity magazines that are illegal in the state. The federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004, but California has its own ban.

The treasurer, who sits on both pension boards, is expected to make a formal motion for CalPERS in February.

CalPERS did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

The teachers' fund invests retirement benefits for more than 850,000 California public school teachers, workers and their families. It invests more than half of its assets in stocks but also has investments in bonds, private equity, real estate and other categories.

CalSTRS Chief Investment Officer Chris Ailman said Cerberus' investment in Freedom Group didn't raise flags because the fund's ethics policy was not expanded to include private equity investments until 2008, after the fund invested in Cerberus. Ailman said staff did not look at past purchases.

"At this point in time in 2008, we were very much focused on the external part of the portfolio in the emerging markets, and sadly, not so much on the U.S. equity portfolio," Ailman told the committee Wednesday. "I'd also point out in '08 as we did this, with the financial collapse, our attention very much became focused on mortgages, Wall Street and just the entire financial crisis at the time."

He said companies that manufacture firearms that are illegal in California could violate the fund's policy on human rights and human health.

Since the mid-1970s, the retirement system has factored political, environmental and social conflicts in reviewing potential investments. CalSTRS was one of early funds to divest from companies doing business with South Africa in an effort to end racial apartheid. The fund also avoids oil and energy investments in Iran and removed tobacco companies from its stock holdings years ago.

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    "I wish to God she had had an m-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said of slain principal Dawn Hochsprung on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/louie-gohmert-guns_n_2311379.html"><em>Fox News Sunday</em></a>. He argued that shooters often choose schools because they know people will be unarmed.

  • Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)

    "If people were armed, not just a police officer, but other school officials that were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would be an opportunity to stop an individual trying to get into the school," he <a href="http://www.wtop.com/610/3162096/Gov-Is-it-time-to-arm-school-officials">told WTOP's "Ask the Governor" show</a> Tuesday, warning that Washington may respond to such a policy with a "knee-jerk reaction."

  • Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) & State Sen. Frank Niceley (R)

    Gov. Haslam says he will consider a Tennessee plan to secretly arm and train some teachers, <a href="http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/12/tennessee-armed-teachers.php">TPM reports</a>. The legislation will be introduced by State Sen. Frank Niceley (R) next month. "Say some madman comes in. The first person he would probably try to take out was the resource officer. But if he doesn’t know which teacher has training, then he wouldn’t know which one had [a gun]," Niceley told TPM. "These guys are obviously cowards anyway and if someone starts shooting back, they’re going to take cover, maybe go ahead and commit suicide like most of them have."

  • Oklahoma State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) & State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R)

    State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) <a href="http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=336&articleid=20121217_336_0_OKLAHO168827">told the Tulsa World</a> he plans to file legislation that would bring guns into schools, calling their absence "irresponsible." “It is incredibly irresponsible to leave our schools undefended – to allow mad men to kill dozens of innocents when we have a very simple solution available to us to prevent it," he said. "I’ve been considering this proposal for a long time. In light of the savagery on display in Connecticut, I believe it’s an idea whose time has come." Sen. Ralph Shortey (R) told the Tulsa World that teachers should carry concealed weapons at school events. "Allowing teachers and administrators with concealed-carry permits the ability to have weapons at school events would provide both a measure of security for students and a deterrent against attackers," he said.

  • Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R)

    Baxley, who once sponsored Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, <a href="http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2012/12/17/florida-legislator-allow-guns-in-schools/">told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune </a>that keeping guns out of schools makes them a target for attacks. “We need to be more realistic at looking at this policy," he said. "In our zealousness to protect people from harm we’ve created all these gun-free zones and what we’ve inadvertently done is we’ve made them a target. A helpless target is exactly what a deranged person is looking for where they cannot be stopped.”

  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)

    At a Tea Party event Monday night, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/rick-perry-guns-in-schools_n_2322185.html">Perry praised a Texas school system that allows some staff to carry concealed weapons to work</a> and encouraged local school districts to make their own policies.

  • Minnesota State Rep. Tony Cornish (R)

    Cornish <a href="http://www.kdlt.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22736&Itemid=57">plans to introduce legislation that would allow teachers to arm themselves</a>, according to the AP.

  • Oregon State Rep. Dennis Richardson (R)

    In an email <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/oregon-state-rep-dennis-richardson-teacher-guns-stopped-connecticut-shooting_n_2317444.html?ir=Education">obtained by Gawker</a> and excerpted below, Richardson tells three superintendents that he could have saved lives had he been armed and in Sandy Hook on Friday: <blockquote>If I had been a teacher or the principal at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and if the school district did not preclude me from having access to a firearm, either by concealed carry or locked in my desk, most of the murdered children would still be alive, and the gunman would still be dead, and not by suicide. ... [O]ur children's safety depends on having a number of well-trained school employees on every campus who are prepared to defend our children and save their lives?</blockquote>

  • Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett

    "And I'm not so sure -- and I'm sure I'll get mail for this -- I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing," Bennett, who served as education secretary under Ronald Reagan, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/bill-bennett-education-secretary-connecticut-shooting_n_2311774.html">told <em>Meet the Press</em> Sunday</a>. "The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. It has to be someone who's trained, responsible. But, my god, if you can prevent this kind of thing, I think you ought to."