Investors and money managers with more than $4.8 trillion in assets are banding together for the first time to pressure gun manufacturers and sellers to make firearms “safer, more secure and easier to trace.”

The 13 members -- which include State Street Global Advisors, TIAA’s investment manager Nuveen and pension funds in California, Florida and Connecticut, where mass shootings have occurred -- is asking for changes in business practices rather than threatening divestment, the group said Wednesday in a statement.

It’s unclear how much traction the investors will gain, since they aren’t among the largest shareholders of two large publicly traded gun manufacturers, Sturm, Ruger & Co. and American Outdoor Brands Corp., formerly known as Smith & Wesson.

“We’ve tried to do it alone in the past, but you need a group,” Christopher Ailman, chief investment officer of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, who is helping coordinate the effort, said in an interview. “You need a chorus of investors singing loud and clear to hear you.”

Collective Clout

The group is asking the civilian firearms industry to comply with five principles that include the development of technology to make firearms safer and easier to trace, according to the statement. It also calls for the adoption of “responsible” dealer standards, the establishment of complete background checks, education and training of employees at distributors, dealers and retailers and work collaboratively with the investors.

“Working together, we can build and leverage solid relationships as we make progress toward mitigating risks, not only to the civilian firearms industry, but also on behalf of our investments,” Ailman said in the statement.

The initial alliance of five investors came together earlier this year and expanded to include pension funds from across the country; retirement systems representing the Methodist and Roman Catholic churches; and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, known as Calpers, the largest U.S. pension fund.

Like Calpers, Calstrs has policies to push for change in an industry before selling assets. What’s different now, the group said, is that they believe they have a collective sway among portfolio companies they own.

Ailman said in the interview he contacted the top shareholders of gun makers, most of whom haven’t joined the coalition. The group is reaching out to other institutional investors and companies involved in all aspects of the firearms industry including sales, manufacturing, distribution and financing.

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