BlackRock puts US gunmakers on notice after school shooting

BOSTON/NEW YORK: The world’s largest asset manager put US gunmakers on notice that it is no longer business as usual in the wake of a shooting that killed 17 at a Florida high school. BlackRock Inc said it will speak with weapons manufacturers and distributors “to understand their response” to the second-deadliest shooting at a public school in US history, putting pressure on companies such as Sturm Ruger & Company Inc and American Outdoor Brands Corp.
BlackRock is the largest shareholder in both gunmakers and has more than $6 trillion in assets under management. It stopped short of saying it would divest its funds of gun companies, however.
Underlining how the Valentine’s Day massacre at the Florida high school has rattled the finance industry’s relationship with gunmakers, First National Bank of Omaha said separately on Thursday it would not renew a contract with the National Rifle Association (NRA) to issue a NRA-branded Visa card. The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Gun control activists have campaigned in recent days for everything from banning semi-automatic guns like the one used in the Florida shooting to asking public pension funds to sell gun stocks.
New Jersey legislators on Thursday said they plan to introduce bills to bar state pension funds from investing in gun manufacturers.
BlackRock said it cannot sell shares of a company in an index, given its fiduciary responsibilities. Instead, “We focus on engaging with the company and understanding how they are responding to society’s expectations of them,” BlackRock spokesman Ed Sweeney said in an email. — Reuters