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Calpers opposes California bill on broad firearms investment ban

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The investment committee of the biggest U.S. public pension fund voted on Monday to oppose legislation seeking to prevent the fund from investing in any company making firearms or ammunition for any market other than the U.S. military.

Investment staff at the California Public Employees' Retirement System, best known as Calpers, had urged the $255 billion pension fund's committee to oppose the bill in the state legislature as it would intrude on the fund board's investment authority and complicate staff work as other politically symbolic legislation has.

"Should this bill pass, the Calpers Investment Office would need to divert resources away from making and managing investments toward analyzing and reporting on its holdings and divestment actions," a staff report said.

"Moreover, legislation was enacted in 2010 that states any new annual reporting requirement should cease after five years, and this bill requires reporting in perpetuity as does reporting on Sudan, Iran, and Holocaust Era and Northern Ireland," the report said.

Calpers' traditionally prefers symbolic directives regarding investment choices come from its leaders such as a recent effort pressing the fund to divest holdings in firearms companies whose weapons are illegal for private citizens in California to own, like a semi-automatic rifle used in the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December.

In response to that tragedy, Calpers' investment committee in February voted to sell the funds' stakes in two manufacturers of guns and high-capacity ammunition clips.

The move, led by fund board member and state treasurer Bill Lockyer, affects about $5 million in investments in Smith & Wesson Holding Corp and Sturm, Ruger & Co.

Lockyer led a similar effort at Calpers' sister fund, the California State Teachers' Retirement System. It made official on Friday its decision to divest from Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger in a move affecting about $3 million in investments.

(The story replaces "U.S." with "California" in headline.)

(Reporting by Jim Christie; Editing by Richard Chang)

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