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Buckhorn to city retirement board: Drop assault weapons, ammo from pension fund

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Thursday directed staff to request the city's board of trustees that oversees $800 million general employee retirement fund to divest of assets linked to assault weapons and ammunition.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced Thursday he is seeking to shed companies that manufacture weapons or ammunition from the city's nearly $1 billion employee pension portfolio.

The request will be made formally at a Tuesday meeting of the pension board. It comes after a staff review Buckhorn ordered found that these manufacturers account for about $300,000 of Tampa's approximately $800 million general employees retirement fund, said mayor's spokeswoman Ashley Bauman.

Buckhorn ordered the staff review weeks ago, she said.

The mayor is in Mexico on a trade mission.

Buckhorn's announcement comes a day after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman directed his city attorney to join 10 other cities in suing the state over laws that bar cities from enacting gun control ordinances.

Buckhorn is still pondering whether to join that lawsuit.

Kriseman also announced in late March that he's directed the finance staff to ask for City Council approval of a new investment policy.  The change would remove gun-related investments from the $700 million city-controlled investment fund.

Chief Financial Officer Anne Fritz said an initial review has turned up no assault weapon-related investments, except for an estimated $20 million invested in index funds nearly impossible to track.

The amendment would prohibit future investments, Fritz said.

Similarly, Kriseman has asked Morgan Stanley, which invests about $15 million in holdings in the city's Weeki Wachee fund, to remove a pawn brokerage investment because of its gun-related holdings.

That amount is also unknown and subject to council approval, as well, Fritz said.

In Tampa, the city's seven-member pension board has a Buckhorn-appointed majority. On Tuesday, they'll take up the mayor's request to rid the fund of the $300,000 connected to assault weapons and ammunition. Three members are appointed by the mayor. Three more are elected by city employees and the mayor's chief financial officer, Sonya Little, is the seventh member.

Bauman said the mayor believes the time is ripe for "common sense gun policy" on assault weapons.

"Like a majority of gun owners, he recognizes the glaring difference between guns used for hunting or self defense and those weapons whose only purpose is the killing of human beings," said Bauman.

Buckhorn believes Tampa city employees want to stand with the families and victims of Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine and other American cities affected by gun violence, Bauman said.

Editor's Note:  An earlier version misstated the nature and control of St. Petersburg's investments based on information provided by the mayor's office.