Top asset manager BlackRock pressures US gun industry


Washington (AFP)

The world's largest asset manager BlackRock is exerting pressure on the gun industry following the latest US school shooting massacre, pressing firms on how they monitor firearms use and safety.

In a statement published Friday on BlackRock's website, the investment titan said it was considering launching new funds including "index-based portfolios that would exclude just firearms manufacturers and retailers."

The world's largest investor in publicly held companies -- with more than $6 trillion in assets under management -- also said it was pressing gunmakers and retailers in which its clients invest on issues ranging from litigation risk to weapon safety monitoring to background checks.

"As it has for many people, the recent tragedy in Florida has driven home for BlackRock the terrible toll from gun violence in America," the firm said.

"We believe that this event requires response and action from a wide range of entities across both the public and private sectors."

The asset manager is a leading shareholder in firearms manufacturers American Outdoor Brands, Sturm Ruger & Company and Vista Outdoor.

"Over the past two weeks, we have reached out to our clients to help them understand their exposure to civilian firearms companies," BlackRock said in its notice.

"We have a continuing dialogue with many clients and are helping them explore their options for altering or eliminating their firearms exposures."

A number of US companies have shifted course on firearms in the wake of February's horrific Florida shooting that saw a 19-year-old enter his former high school and gun down 17 people.

Three large US retailers -- Walmart, Kroger and Dick's Sporting Goods -- have announced a minimum age of 21 for gun purchasers.

BlackRock's move comes after its CEO in January called on corporate leaders to act for the betterment of society -- or risk losing the investment giant's support.