Chicago paper: If you own gun stocks, you can't complain about crime

Julie Jacobson

Billionaire Ken Griffin is believed to be the wealthiest man in the state of Illinois, with a net worth somewhere around $25-billion. He’s also one of the biggest political threats to Gov. J.B. Pritzker (a billionaire in his own right), thanks to Griffin’s deep pockets and willingness to spend significant sums in support of a Republican challenge to Pritzker’s attempt to win a second term in office this year.

Griffin’s backing Aurora, Illinois mayor Richard Irvin in his quest to win the Republican gubernatorial nomination, and as the Chicago Sun-Times points out, the two men are making Chicago’s out-of-control crime a major talking point. But the Sun-Times is also trying to make an issue out of the fact that Griffin’s investments include tens of millions of dollars worth of shares in firearms and ammunition manufacturers; something the paper’s editors seem to think make any anti-crime talk by Griffin an exercise in hypocrisy.

Citadel’s hedge fund and its related, Griffin-owned market-maker firm, Citadel Securities, reported combined investments and holdings in gun and ammunition makers exceeding $86 million last December, according to federal securities disclosures.

But a company spokesperson told WBEZ that Griffin doesn’t choose Citadel’s stock holdings, and they have no correlation to Chicago’s crime wave.

“These investments make up less than .01% of our portfolio,” Citadel spokesperson Zia Ahmed said, calling any links between the companies’ stocks and violent crime in Chicago “quite a stretch.”

Ahmed said the vast majority of Citadel’s positions in gun and ammunition companies are held by Citadel Securities, which he said does not make direct investments but instead owns stocks investors buy and sell through third-party brokerages.

… A new SEC filing submitted earlier this month showed Citadel and Citadel Securities held more than $86 million worth of shares in gun and ammunition companies last December.

In that disclosure, Citadel listed nearly $13.7 million in Smith & Wesson Brands Inc. stock and another $21.2 million in Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc.

Citadel and Citadel Securities had another $51.2 million in ammunition makers Olin Corp., Ammo Inc. and Vista Outdoor, the filing showed.

Citadel said ammunition manufacturers should not be included in WBEZ’s reporting.

“Only two, Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger, are true gun manufacturers and germane,” Ahmed said. “As far as we can tell, the other . . . companies have broader businesses, such as outdoor equipment. As has been discussed, these other companies do not manufacture the weapons used in the street violence that plagues Chicago.”

I have to say I’m less than impressed with Ahmed’s response here. Griffin owns stock in companies that manufacture firearms and ammunition for the legal market; a market that includes every law enforcement agency in the state of Illinois. There’s no reason to get defensive about that, because Griffin isn’t responsible for the criminal misuse of firearms any more than a General Motors or InBev shareholder is responsible for the actions of drunk drivers.

Of course, that’s not the way Chicago’s gun control activists see it.

“You absolutely cannot be a voice about crime and murder or shootings on our streets when your company is a major investor in gun manufacturers,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of Faith Community of St. Sabina Church.

Nonsense. Not only do we know that the vast majority of violent crime (whether in Chicago or any other city) is driven by a small number of prolific offenders and not by legal gun owners, but the firearms industry actively fights against the criminal misuse of firearms through industry-supported efforts like “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy“, which seeks to reduce straw purchases.

None of that matters to Pfleger, the Sun-Times, or WBEZ radio in Chicago, which has done a deep dive into crime records in the city in an attempt to portray Griffin as a man profiting off of the city’s violent crime by noting that Smith & Wesson firearms have been used in a number of Chicago-area murders over the past five years.

A Smith & Wesson firearm was used by a gunman in the February 2019 mass shooting at the Henry Pratt manufacturing plant in Aurora, where five company employees were fatally shot and five police officers injured.

Irvin was mayor of Aurora at the time of the shooting. A campaign aide told WBEZ Irvin does not take issue with Citadel’s investments and holdings.

“Mayor Irvin is a supporter of the Second Amendment, owns two licensed firearms and believes that Mr. Griffin, like everyone else in this country, is free to invest in whatever industry he chooses,” Irvin spokesperson Eleni Demertzis said.

I’m used to nonsensical narratives coming out of the anti-gun camp in Illinois, but this is an extraordinarily stupid attempt to demonize Griffin and his favored candidate. Smith & Wesson and other gun makers are no more responsible for Chicago’s crime problem than Ford or Honda are to blame for the staggeringly high number of carjackings in the city.

Still, as dumb as the argument might be, it’s still being made by folks with a pretty big reach in Illinois politics, and I hope that Griffin, Irvin, and other Illinois Republicans are proactive in getting their own message out there: banning guns and criminalizing the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens is no way to improve public safety or secure our civil rights, and demonizing investors in gun companies while excusing the individuals who are pulling the trigger of their illicitly-obtained firearms only proves that the priorities of anti-gun extremists are radically out-of-line with our Constitution and the strategies that have been proven to be effective at making cities like Chicago safer places for everyone.