St. Pete mayor calls for divesting city holdings in gun firms

Rick Kriseman, Mayor, St. Petersburg, Florida.
Source: St. Petersburg
Rick Kriseman, Mayor, St. Petersburg, Florida.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman says he will propose changes to the city's investment policy to keep city funds from being invested in gun manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.

Kriseman announced the proposed divestment at the March For Our Lives gathering in St. Petersburg on Saturday, one of hundreds of such events nationwide sparked by the Feb. 14 shootings at a South Florida high school that left 17 people dead.

The shooting has intensified scrutiny on investments in gun companies. Proposals to divest gun holdings are pending in Massachusetts and Connecticut, according to Pensions & Investments.

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"The city of St. Petersburg directly controls $700 million in investments and some of that money finds its way to gun manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. I've decided no more. Never again. Not one more dollar," Kriseman said.

The investment money Kriseman was referring to does not include pension funds, which are controlled by separate boards, a spokesman said.

One fund over which the city has control is the Weeki Wachee Fund, which includes revenue received from the sale of city property in Weeki Wachee Springs. That fund currently holds investments in a pawn and gun brokerage, the spokesman said. If the amended investment policy is approved by the City Council, those funds no longer would be invested in that brokerage.

It was not immediately known how much money the city has invested in companies that make or sell guns.

Kriseman said he would like to establish policies that eliminate high-capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets, and ban assault style weapons and bump stocks, but state law prohibits local governments in Florida from passing gun regulations. Elected officials who attempt to pass such laws can be removed from office, fined and sued, Kriseman said.

"We may not be able to get common-sense gun laws passed, but we can at least hit them where it hurts, in their pockets," Kriseman said.

The Florida Retirement System Pension Plan held stock in four companies that manufacture guns or bullets as of Dec. 31. The Florida Education Association, a statewide federation of teacher and education workers' labor unions, has called on the retirement system to divest its holdings in the weapons companies. The retirement system, which is overseen by the Florida State Board of Administration, said it is acting in the best financial interest of the state retirees whose pensions rely on returns on its investments.