- Associated Press - Monday, November 19, 2018

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Oregon has joined a coalition of states intent on changing how they invest money in the firearms industry to push gun safety reforms.

The Statesman Journal reports the move by the Oregon State Treasury - which manages the multi-billion-dollar Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund - reflects an increased level of scrutiny for gun-related manufacturers not just from the halls of Congress, but from low-profile corners of state government that seek to influence how the industry does business.

The coalition’s investing principles support universal background checks, safer technology for firearms and training for gun retail employees.

The principles aren’t a set of rules that forbid any investment in the industry. Instead, they are a broader framework for investors doing business with companies.

Oregon joins California, Connecticut, Florida, Maine and Maryland in the coalition. In their entirety, member states manage more than $4.8 trillion, much of it for government retirees.

“As a fiduciary of a large, diversified investment portfolio, we frequently engage companies and encourage them to operate in ways that increase the odds of strong long-term returns and to reduce future investment risks,” Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read said in a statement. “Without (these gun safety principles) we do not believe the current path is sustainable.”

The Oregon pension fund’s investment in the firearms and munitions manufacturing sector is a tiny part of the state’s overall portfolio - just a fraction of 1 percent. The fund has positions in four companies with a net value that was less than $7 million in November 2017, when the state last ran a report on its holdings in the firearms sector.

At the time, the fund’s total assets were about $78 billion, Treasury officials said.

Kevin Starrett, director of the Oregon Firearms Federation, said Read’s actions are “typical of Oregon and Democrats.”

“They think if we don’t invest in companies that are firearms-related, we’re going to hurt them somehow, but all they do is make their stocks available to other people like me,” Starrett said. “It’s what Oregon Democrats are about. It’s symbolism and show and amounts to nothing.”

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