Investments in Firearms Manufacturers for the Civilian Market

In January 2013, following the Sandy Hook tragedy, the Executive Committee of the Boston University Board of Trustees established a Working Group on Investment in Civilian Gun Manufacturers. The Working Group reported back to the Executive Committee the following month with two recommendations: First, that the then-proposed Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing should consider the University’s investment in manufacturers of guns for the civilian market “within the context of its work on the University’s socially responsible investment policy(ies)” once the committee was formed. Second, the University in the interim should make no new direct investments in civilian gun manufacturers.

The Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing met throughout the 2013–2014 academic year to consider a broad range of issues and arguments around investments in civilian firearms manufacturers.

In May 2014, the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing made the following recommendation:

That Boston University will prohibit new and divest of any existing direct investments in civilian firearm manufacturers until, in the University’s judgment, a level of state and/or federal regulatory control over firearm sale and/or ownership is achieved that merits repeal of this policy. We believe that a legislatively created balance between the Constitution’s Second Amendment’s rights and pragmatic, effective controls would help reduce the unacceptable level of social harm created by tragedies such as the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the continued acts of gun violence since that event.

In December 2014, after considering the recommendation, the Board of Trustees Executive Committee made the decision not to divest from firearms manufacturers. A BU Today article was written about the decision. It can be found at

Below are links to websites and documents regarding this issue, compiled to assist members of the committee in their discussions and inform members of the community about relevant issues and arguments.

Relevant laws, court cases, and regulations

The Second Amendment

Legal gun ownership in the United States is established through the Second Amendment of the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights added to the Constitution in 1789. It reads:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Recent Supreme Court decisions

In 2008, the US Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller, held by a 5–4 vote that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to private gun ownership for traditionally lawful purposes, including self-defense, and that an individual’s right to private gun ownership is not dependent on an affiliation with a state-regulated militia. The Court’s ruling in Heller applies only to federal enclaves, such as Washington, DC.

In 2010, in McDonald v. Chicago, the Supreme Court voted 5–4 to reverse and remand a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding a Chicago ordinance that banned the possession of handguns. In doing so, the Court established that the Second Amendment right to private gun ownership, as recognized in Heller, also applies to restrictions imposed by individual states.

In March 2014, in United States v. Castleman, the Supreme Court held that an individual convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense can be barred from possessing a gun even in states where “use of physical force” is not an element of the crime.

Massachusetts law

Excerpts from relevant Massachusetts laws can be found ACSRI_Massachusetts_Firearms_Laws_Excerpts.

Boston University policy

Boston University policies regarding firearms on campus can be found here.

Firearms industry in the United States

A detailed analysis of the civilian firearms manufacturing industry, sales, and the civilian gun market in the United States can be found ACSRI_Firearms_Industry_Research.

This analysis examines publicly traded gun manufacturers, federal gun laws in the United States, a description of assault weapons, a description of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1193, and recent developments in gun control legislation.

The public debate on firearms ownership

A principled commitment to the Second Amendment is paramount for some, while others urgently seek to end mass shootings and random violence in the streets. The debate over gun ownership is passionate and ongoing.

The National Rifle Association, Institute for Legislative Action, offers an extensive amount of information on the Second Amendment and gun-ownership issues.

In 2013, public health researchers at Johns Hopkins University convened a summit of experts on many aspects of the impact of firearms on society, as well as public attitudes about guns. The result was a book, Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis, which contains a wealth of information across the spectrum of firearms-related topics.

The public debate on divestment

A broad and objective overview on the issue of divestment from the firearms industry can be found in the Morgan Stanley Capital International Research Issue Brief, Firearms Divestment in the United States. This report, which was issued in February 2013, includes a summary of arguments around divestment from holdings in the firearms industry, a summary of the Sandy Hook Principles (which pertain to gun safety), an analysis of the US firearms market, and a discussion on fiduciary obligations in firearms divestment.

Two articles that argue in favor of firearms divestment can be found here (“Busting The Myths About Gun Divestment,” from Pax World Management) and here (“Gun Control Advocates Are Embracing a Tactic That Beat Apartheid,” from The New Republic).

Arguments against firearms divestment are here (“The price of moral grandstanding,” from the Washington Post) and here (“The Divestment Dilemma” from The Daily Beast).