New Jersey's pension sold remaining stake of weapons maker Vista Outdoor as scrutiny on gunmakers intensifies

Key Points
  • New Jersey's $78 billion pension said it looked at its holdings and sold the remaining $1.9 million in shares of Vista Outdoor it owned.
  • The pension may try to engage weapons makers and sellers to push for positive change in business practices.
A file photo of semi-automatic AR-15's for sale in Orem, Utah.
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New Jersey's $78 billion state pension has sold its $1.9 million stake in the firearm and ammunition maker Vista Outdoor and may try to engage weapons makers and retailers to push for "positive change" in their business practices.

The move comes just weeks after a state senator, Vin Gopal, introduced legislation to bar the state from investing in companies that make guns or ammunition. It is part of a fresh wave of activism by public pensions in response to the outcry over gun violence after the deadly shootings at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in February.

Earlier this month, the State of Michigan Retirement System said it sold its shares of Olin Corp., a chemical company that also makes Winchester ammunition. But California's Public Employees Retirement System, the largest U.S. public pension, voted against a similar proposal to sell stakes of rifle sellers, saying it could use its influence as a major shareholder more effectively than sending a message by divesting.

Earlier Thursday, a group of nearly 150 investors, including faith-based groups and socially activist funds, urged American companies to take action against gun violence.

New Jersey's pension said it had already been cutting its stake in Vista Outdoor and recently sold the rest of it.

"After the tragedy in Parkland, we examined our holdings to identify companies which might be adversely financially impacted by a changing landscape as it relates to certain types of firearms," said Chris McDonough, director of the state's Division of Investment, in a statement on the governor's office website. "Vista Outdoor was the only holding we identified that manufactures semi-automatic or automatic weapons for civilian use."

A spokeswoman for Vista wasn't immediately available for comment.