In response to the mass shootings in Newtown and, more recently, near the University of California, Santa Barbara, students are urging schools to divest their endowment of companies that manufacture guns and ammunitions, such as Remington and Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. Research from the Center for American Progress shows that gun violence has a disproportionate impact on young people and that Millennials are increasingly concerned about the presence of guns in their communities—even though gun-related deaths aren’t prevalent on college campuses.
This February, the Boston University Board of Trustees rejected a recommendation from its Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investment that the university divest from companies that make firearms for the civilian market. The deliberations trace back to a month after the Sandy Hook tragedy, when the board’s executive committee established a working group to report back on the school’s investment in civilian gun manufacturers.
Lindsay Fuori is a BU freshman from Newtown, Connecticut, who attended Sandy Hook school. “Inside the school that day were many beloved teachers and neighborhood children I babysat,” she recalled. “I was speechless, furious, and crushed all at the same time.” As a reaction to the board’s February decision, students, including Fuori, launched the BU Campaign to Divest from Firearms, Fuori explained. “I myself was guilty,” she said, only learning about BU’s investment in firearm companies after the decision. According to the student petition, which was sponsored by the national gun divestment organization Campaign to Unload, “no university should ever fund an industry that profits from violence against its students”—as the petitioners believe the gun industry does.
And this May, according to Campaign to Unload’s executive director, Jennifer Fiore, UC students and the father of a UC Santa Barbara student shot and killed in the massacre last year will deliver a divestment petition to the university’s Board of Regents—two days before the anniversary of the off-campus mass shooting.
“There may be no traceable financial effect of a divestment campaign,” Fiore said. “But by stigmatizing the gun industry as bad corporate actors we are changing the culture and, eventually, cutting into profits.” Meanwhile, divestment “hobbles the industry politically,” she added, so the government can enact “sane gun laws.” After Newtown, Congress tried to expand background checks on firearm sales, but according to Fiore the National Rifle Association, funded by gun companies that profit from lax gun laws, mounted a powerful backlash.
This is the crux of the issue, and perhaps why it’s so difficult for campuses to reach a consensus: The two sides are debating different questions. Opponents of divestment say it doesn’t make economic sense; proponents say that doesn’t matter.