In the aftermath of the February mass shooting that killed 17 students and staff members at a Parkland, Florida, high school, people are pointing fingers at the gun companies who profit from flooding our streets with assault rifles and other firearms. On an average day, 96 Americans are killed with guns with seven of them being children or teens. And, in just the last year, there have been 16 school shootings that resulted in the deaths of students and faculty members.
Fortunately, people are realizing they need to cut investment ties with gun manufacturers as well as companies that profit from selling weapons of war. Companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman make hundreds of billions of dollars a year on their arms sales. Weapons are a big, bloody business.
A growing movement is taking a stand by divesting from gun companies and the military industry. But if you own mutual funds, whether in a personal portfolio or an employer-offered retirement plan like a 401(k), there’s a good chance that you own shares of gun manufacturers, gun retailers and other weapon companies like military contractors.
At As You Sow, we think everyone should be able to leverage their personal economic power to create positive change, and that means knowing what you own. But it’s almost impossible to know what individual companies you own if you’re invested through mutual funds. We’re starting to change that.
Weapon Free Funds is a new tool that enables you to find out if your money is being used to finance weapon manufacturers, and to find alternative options that avoid weapon investments. We are releasing this tool in partnership with CODEPINK, as a part of the organization’s Divest from the War Machine campaign.
The tool screens the 3,000 most held U.S. mutual funds and exchange-traded funds for assault weapons, handguns, ammo, retailers, cluster munitions, landmines and nuclear weapons.
You probably own weapon investments
Unless you work directly with a financial advisor to pick stocks directly, you probably own weapon investments, most likely hiding in a broad-based index fund.
The largest asset managers all have significant investments in weapon companies. The five largest mutual fund managers in our database all have billions invested in gun makers, gun retailers and military contractors.
The investments in military contractors include companies that make cluster munitions and landmines— weapons banned in more than 100 countries—as well as companies that build and maintain the nuclear arsenals of militaries around the world.
There are weapon-free options
Investing in weapons is a choice—though not always an intentional one for investors. Some funds actively choose to invest responsibly by deliberately avoiding companies that make military weapons and civilian firearms.
Responsible investment firms like Parnassus and Domini offer a number of funds that fit a wide range of investing circumstances while avoiding weapon companies.
We feature dozens of socially responsible funds that have a low risk of weapon investments in our database.
You don’t have to give up returns to invest responsibly
A widespread myth is that divesting from morally problematic companies means making less money. According to the latest research, that’s just not true. Sustainable and responsible investors do not have to pay more to align their investments with their values, or to avoid companies with poor environmental, social or governance practices.
Ethically and financially, you can make satisfying investment choices. With Weapon Free Funds, we’re making that a whole lot easier. Make sure you’re not contributing to the violence.