Hoping to pressure gun makers into voluntarily adopting certain gun safety measures, Mayor Michael Nutter this week said he is urging the city’s pension board to divest from companies that don’t formally adopt a standard code of “corporate conduct.”
“We deserve better and more importantly we can do better,” Nutter said, noting that he advocated for stronger gun laws, but that wasn’t enough. “We can’t wait. One of the most effective ways to make our voices heard is through our investments.”
Nutter made the announcement Tuesday at City Hall, where he also unveiled what he called the “Sandy Hook Principles.” It was list of 20 principles that ranged from requiring a national database of gun owners, stopping the sale and manufacture and conversion of assault weapons for sale to civilians, controls on sale to straw purchasers, restrictions on the sale of ammunition to including a serial number in four different locations on each weapon.
The idea, Nutter said, was based on the principles developed by Leon L. Sullivan, whose concepts pioneered in the fight against apartheid when many municipalities and institutional investors put pressure on the government of South Africa to end apartheid by refusing to do business with the country.
“We are proposing a code of corporate conduct based on common sense principals that Congress, institutions and many of the American people can agree on,” he said. “Corporations in the firearms business will be asked to adhere to these principles or risk losing investments.”
Calls to a local chapter of the Friends of the National Rifle Association were referred to the national headquarters. Repeated phone calls, made Tuesday and Wednesday, to the organization’s headquarters were answered with a recorded message that said all circuits were busy.
The mayor’s announcement comes a month after the shootings in Newtown, Conn. in which 26 people – 20 elementary school students and six adults – were killed. The deaths, at the hands of one man armed with an assault weapon, has provoked a national debate over gun control. Nutter made his proposal just one day before President Barack Obama announced his own measures.
According to Nutter, city Solicitor Shelley Smith will formally introduce his proposal at the pension board’s meeting next week.
If it’s adopted, pension fund officials will require companies in which the city invests to be notified of the requirement, and respond in writing with an endorsement of the principles and pledge to abide by them. If they don’t, the city will end its investment, Nutter said.
Philadelphia has an estimated $9 million invested in companies that do business involving firearms and ammunition – largely in retail and related businesses. It has no direct investment in firearms manufacturers or ammunition makers.
In addition to urging the city’s pension board to adopt his proposal, Nutter said he would use his role as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors to push the idea in other cities as well. The national conference meets Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Washington, D.C.
He also hopes to coax other large pension funds, like the one administered by the teachers’ union and those associated with universities and other institutional investors, to divest too.
“I am asking all cities, states, transit systems, schools, colleges, hedge fund and pension fund managers, venture capital funds and all other organizations that hold investments with private corporations to review the Sandy Hook principles and consider their adoptions,” he said.
The mayor, long a gun control advocate, put his idea in a larger context, detailing the number of gun deaths across the nation since the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King. According to the mayor’s statistics, one million people have been killed with guns since that time. Since the shooting at Newtown, 900 people across the country have been killed by guns and in Philadelphia last year 331 were killed – 281 of them by guns.