Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday that he was asking all city pension funds to examine whether they have investments in assault weapons manufacturers and sellers as the first step toward getting them to divest any such holdings.
Speaking to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Emanuel said he would lead a charge of mayors across the country urging them to do the same.
Asked later about the extent of city pension fund investment in assault-weapons companies, Emanuel said, "You never know until you check."
City Comptroller Amer Ahmad said the city pension funds do have investments in various investment pools that hold stock in companies that manufacture or sell assault weapons.
"We do know that there are some holdings, and they may not add up to a lot of money, but every dollar matters," Ahmad said, adding that the mayor hopes to spark a movement of divesture similar to the campaign that helped end apartheid in South Africa.
"We hope that other cities and states start picking this up, and we're hearing that others may," Ahmad said. "This could become a good national movement."
The mayor exerts various degrees of control over the city's four main pension funds, which have trustees appointed by the mayor and others elected or appointed by unions. City Treasurer Stephanie Neely, who is independently elected, also serves on all the funds, and city Clerk Susana Mendoza, also independently elected, serves on the firefighters' fund.
In his speech, Emanuel said, "We're going to divest of any investment in any gun manufacturer," but he later clarified that he was talking about those who make or sell assault weapons.
The mayor's comments came as Chicago battles continued gun violence. Last year, the city's homicides jumped 16 percent to 506.
In the just-concluded lame-duck session of the Illinois General Assembly, efforts to pass an assault weapons ban fell short. Last month, a federal appeals court threw out the state's decades-old ban on concealed carrying of a weapon in public.
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