Jeremy Ring: Divest FRS from gun makers - Florida Politics

Jeremy Ring: Divest FRS from gun makers

During his freshman year in the Florida Senate, Democrat Jeremy Ring led the fight to make Florida the first state in the nation to pass a bill to divest from Iran. Under that legislation, $1 billion in state pension funds was screened for holdings in companies doing business with or investing in Iran’s oil sector.

As he now runs to serve as the state’s chief financial officer more than a decade later, Ring says if elected, he would push to have Florida divest in any company that manufactures assault weapons for civilian purchase.

Ring lives in Parkland, the site of last week’s deadly mass shooting. He said the idea came to him this week as he sought what he could positively do as CFO to try to prevent another such event.

“We are market makers; the Florida Retirement System (FRS) is the gold standard,” Ring says. “It can do more to significantly affect the stock price of a company than just about any pension fund in America.”

Ring adds that, as a fiduciary, his job is to make sure the retirement system gets the strongest return for its beneficiaries and makes its annual investment return goals. There is no way, he maintains, that divesting from such companies will hurt Florida’s pension fund.

His idea came after it was reported that the FRS had more than 41,000 shares in American Outdoor Brands Co. with a market value of $528,000, according to a Dec. 31 securities filing posted on its website. American Outdoor Brands is the Massachusetts-based parent company of Smith & Wesson.

Federal law enforcement officials say Nikolas Cruz used an M&P 15, Smith & Wesson’s version of the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Along those same lines, Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham released a statement on Thursday calling for the state to divest all Florida’s state interests from gun and ammunition manufacturers.

Ring’s proposal would not be as sweeping, as it’s limited to divesting from companies that manufacture assault weapons for sale to civilians, not to the military.

Florida is just one of at least a dozen states that own stocks issued by the makers of firearms, Bloomberg reported earlier this week.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, one of the largest pension funds in the country, has divested from firearm makers that are illegal in the state.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.
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