BlackRock, State Street to talk to gun makers in wake of Florida shootings

Top asset managers BlackRock and State Street said they will talk with gun makers over safety concerns and learn more about their efforts since the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that left 17 dead.

BlackRock officials were the first to announce plans to talk with gun makers amid a public outcry from Americans last week on social media, urging companies to cut their ties with the National Rifle Association. That outcry included BlackRock clients, who don’t want their money linked to any firearms makers anymore.

The firm, which indirectly owns shares in several gun manufacturers through exchange-traded funds under its iShares umbrella, said it plans to reach out to companies to better understand their response to tragic events like Parkland’s school shooting.

“Given our inability to sell shares of a company in an index, even if we disagree with management, we focus on engaging with the company and understanding how they are responding to society’s expectations of them,” BlackRock spokesman Ed Sweeney told FOX Business. “We will be engaging with weapons manufacturers and distributors to understand their response to recent events.”

Additionally, Sweeney said BlackRock is working with its clients who want to exclude gun manufacturers and distributors from their portfolios because it doesn’t align with their values. BlackRock said it currently has more than $200 billion in American Utility Management for clients in these types of portfolios.

Days later, asset manager State Street followed BlackRock’s lead, announcing plans to seek its own details from gun makers on how they plan to support “safe and responsible use their products.”

State Street spokesman Andrew Hopkins told Reuters in a statement the company “will be engaging with weapons manufacturers and distributors to seek greater transparency from them on the ways that they will support the safe and responsible use of their products.”

Additionally, the company said they will also be monitoring the companies’ lobbying activities.

State Street is a large shareholder in several major weapon companies such as American Outdoor Brands Corp and Sturm Ruger & Co. State Street owns about 2% of shares in both, according to filings.

Bank of America also announced on Monday that it reviewing its relations with the firearms industry.

Since last Thursday, over a dozen companies have announced plans to sever ties to the National Rifle Association in wake of controversial statements from the gun rights group’s chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, who has openly criticized gun-control advocates and the media for its coverage of the shooting.