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Making Our Dollars Speak for Us -- Divesting in Assault Weapons Industry, a Powerful Step Forward

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Gun control continues to dominate the national dialogue in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Our president has made it a top priority to address the proliferation of assault weapons and high-caliber ammunition, and there is an immediate and important movement to take action in an effort to better protect our communities from gun violence. Tragedies such as this put into the spotlight a problem that exists in our city every day: getting assault weapons and high caliber ammunition off the streets.

Too often, I have had the sorrowful experience of attending funerals of men, women, and children who have been gunned down on the streets of Los Angeles. Even though violent crime has been on the decline, no amount is acceptable. I took a stand against this violence when I introduced the motion on Jan. 11, 2013, asking the city to look into divesting from any company or corporation that produces, manufactures, sells, or markets assault weapons, high-volume ammunition magazines, high-caliber ammunition and related equipment. I felt that this simple action would have a huge impact, allowing our dollars to speak for us.

Both the California Board of State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the California Public Employees' Retirement System have begun the process of selling their holdings in some gun and ammunition-clip manufacturers in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. CalSTRS noted that, similar to its 2009 decision to sell its holdings in tobacco companies, divestment in the assault weapon industry was in line with its duty and policy to divest from manufacturers of products that endanger public health. The same could be said for the City of Los Angeles.

Since I introduced this motion, Mayor Villaraigosa has also voiced his support for this action, submitting letters to our three retirement systems -- the Los Angeles City Employees' Retirement System (LACERS), the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions (LAFPP), and the Water and Power Employees' Retirement Plan (WPERP) -- asking them to look into their holdings to see what, if any, investments they have in the makers of assault weapons and high capacity magazines. To date, LACERS (have no holdings that would apply) has responded and we await responses from our other two retirement systems. In the meantime, the City Council's Budget and Finance Committee unanimously supported my motion and it will move to the full Council for a vote.

As a city, we have an opportunity to make a bold statement that we will not fund industries that support or produce assault weapons. Through this simple yet meaningful act, we are sending a clear signal that Los Angeles supports a ban on assault weapons and that the second largest city in the nation will not use its resources to fund these dangerous weapons.