Ashbel C. “Ash” Williams Jr., has the financial wellbeing of Florida’s public employees in his hands.
Williams serves as executive director and chief investment officer of the Florida State Board of Administration in Tallahassee, which oversees more than $250 billion in assets, including the nearly $2 billion Florida Retirement System – the state’s public employee pension fund.
On Nov. 14, 2018, for reasons known only to him, Williams signed an agreement known as the Principles for a Responsible Civilian Firearms Industry, on behalf of the State of Florida. In fact, Florida was one of the first states to sign up with the group, and one of Williams’ own staffers helped draft the document.
The Principles for a Responsible Civilian Firearms Industry is an agreement between private and public pension fund managers from California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, San Francisco and Florida.
According to its website, the “Principles” describes itself as a “framework to advance a responsible civilian firearms industry in the United States of America.”
“We believe in the rule of law and respect the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As asset owners and asset managers, we have a duty to our beneficiaries who depend on us for financial security; such obligations compel us to assume responsibility for reducing risks that we and our beneficiaries face if and when we hold a financial interest in both private and public firearms related enterprises,” the website states. “We believe that enterprises involved in the manufacturing, distribution, sale and enforcement of regulations of the firearms industry are well positioned to support pragmatic transparency and safety measures that contribute to the responsible use of firearms.”
The Principles were conceived and written by a Harvard Fellow, the Chief Investment officer of California’s pension fund, CalSTRS, and Michael McCauley, who is a senior officer in Williams’ State Board of Administration.
Despite its claims of support for the Second Amendment, the Principles are decidedly anti-gun.
“Collectively, we investors are supportive of the following five broad principles. We call on companies within the civilian firearms industry to publicly demonstrate and publish their compliance with each of these principles, failing which, we will consider using all tools available to us as investors to mitigate these risks,” the document states.
- Principle 1: Manufacturers should support, advance and integrate the development of technology designed to make civilian firearms safer, more secure, and easier to trace.
- Principle 2: Manufacturers should adopt and follow responsible business practices that establish and enforce responsible dealer standards and promote training and education programs for owners designed around firearms safety.
- Principle 3: Civilian firearms distributors, dealers, and retailers should establish, promote, and follow best practices to ensure that no firearm is sold without a completed background check in order to prevent sales to persons prohibited from buying firearms or those too dangerous to possess firearms.
- Principle 4: Civilian firearms distributors, dealers, and retailers should educate and train their employees to better recognize and effectively monitor irregularities at the point of sale, to record all firearm sales, to audit firearms inventory on a regular basis, and to proactively assist law enforcement.
- Principle 5: Participants in the civilian firearms industry should work collaboratively, communicate, and engage with the signatories of these Principles to design, adopt, and disclose measures and metrics demonstrating both best practices and their commitment to promoting these Principles.
In other words, the signatories want “Smart guns,” micro-stamping, manufacturer oversight of gun dealers, universal background checks, mandatory dealer training, and mandatory recording, reporting and other “metrics” from everyone involved in the “civilian firearms industry.” In addition, Principle 3 would allow a government agency to slow down, stall or stop the background check process to discourage firearm sales.
There was little fanfare in 2018 to announce the signing of the agreement, other than one short story written by the News Service of Florida.
Williams did not return calls, emails or messages left with his staff seeking his comments for this story, but in 2018, he told the News Service of Florida he signed the agreement to “raise awareness of issues that could impact the value of investments in the firearms industry.”
“We’re not telling anybody, any private company, exactly what they should be doing. Our concern is motivated very simply by one thing, as fiduciaries anything that poses a risk to the value of the assets that we own on behalf of our beneficiaries, we want to make sure we’re managing it properly,” Williams said in an interview with The News Service of Florida, for their story titled: “Florida’s pension fund urges guns manufacturers to act responsibly.”
The charade didn’t last too long.
California’s pension fund officials were the first to admit the group’s real goals and intent.
According to a story published July 1 by The National Review, “CalSTRS announced that it would use its financial heft to pressure retailers anywhere in the country to stop selling guns that are banned in California – overriding the laws of other states.”