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Activists target gun makers with "Unload Your 401(k)"

Some groups who oppose gun violence are looking to their own investments to target gun makers
Groups fighting gun violence through 401(k)s 02:36

NEW YORK -- Some groups opposed to gun violence are not looking to politicians to solve the problem. They're looking at their own investments as a way to target the profits of gun makers.

Trauma surgeon Sheldon Teperman treats a gunshot victim almost every day at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. He's been doing it for 32 years.

Sandy Hook parents still fighting for gun reform 03:09

"You see all of this senseless violence and you see it year after year," Teperman told CBS News.

But six years ago, one patient changed him: the death of 92-year-old Sadie Mitchell, who was shot by a stray bullet -- in her own home.

"After I pronounced her dead, I was so emotionally taken and you want to throw up your hands. This is America," Teperman said.

That moment prompted Teperman to get more involved in gun safety legislation. That's when he learned his personal investments, like his 401(k), could be supporting the gun industry -- and called his financial adviser.

"He was not surprised at all," Teperman said. "All I had to do was sign the memo and give him the instruction not to allow any of my money to be invested in these killing machines."

Teperman is part of a national effort called Unload Your 401(k). It encourages investors to check their 401(k) plans and divest from gun stocks. Most of the spokespeople are victims' family members.

Leah Gunn Barrett, who helped create the campaign, says if you have stocks in large mutual funds, you may own shares in gun manufacturers.

"So we have to build awareness, just like we did for the divestment campaign during the years of apartheid in South Africa," Gunn Barrett told CBS News.

Currently, pension funds in Chicago are vowing to sell off firearms investments. In Philadelphia, they already did it.

In California, the state teachers' retirement system -- one of the largest pension funds in the nation -- voted unanimously to divest.

But equity analyst Brian Ruttenbur says divestment just creates opportunities for someone else.

"You have hundreds if not thousands of other funds that will take up the slack and don't have those restrictions," Ruttenbur pointed out. "There's only a handful of funds that are going to get that pressure and will divest."

In 2015, most gun manufacturers' stocks did very well. Smith & Wesson grew more than 133 percent.

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