The state treasurer isn’t one of those offices you think of when you think about gun control. After all, while the power of the purse can be substantial, state treasurers usually don’t have a lot of say about what happens where with state money.
There are, of course, exceptions.
Yet when a state treasurer says he’s going to tackle gun violence, you have to roll your eyes. After all, there’s not really anything he can do about gun violence. Not directly, anyway, and not through the power of his office, right?
State Treasurer Shawn T. Wooden will hold a press conference Tuesday to release details of a new proposal designed to address the financial underpinnings of gun violence.
Wooden’s office said the plan is “a first-of-its-kind comprehensive approach to mitigating the risks of gun violence through investment and financial business decisions.”
The office did not provide details of the proposal but a source familiar with the plan said it contains three elements. The first would divest state pension funds from gun-related businesses. Several states, including California, have taken similar steps.
But Wooden is also proposing that the state of Connecticut only do business with financial services firms that have embraced gun control policies.
In other words, Wooden wants to provide a political litmus test for businesses before they can do business with the state.
Yeah, no way to see how that one can backfire, now is there?
I’m sure Wooden would argue with framing it like that, but his argument doesn’t change the fundamental fact that he’s trying to limit state contracts with pro-gun businesses. Since gun control is a political issue, insisting that firms seeking to do business with the state have gun control policies is to require them to share Wooden’s politics.
Somehow, I don’t think this one would survive a court challenge.
Further, I don’t think state law enforcement agencies will thank him for this when it comes time to purchase new firearms. After all, firearms companies are notoriously pro-gun for obvious reasons. While they might back a rent-seeking law here or there–usually something that they can weather but will hurt their competition–they’re not likely to have gun control policies on the books. Again, the reasons for this are obvious.
What Wooden’s proposal would do is make it impossible for state law enforcement to purchase new firearms for their officers. It’s also likely to have a negative impact on their ability to purchase accessories, ammunition, magazines, and any number of other pieces of equipment since those companies aren’t likely to have those policies either.
And let’s face it, Connecticut isn’t a large enough state to push the issue.
As a result, the state will run into issues, and that’s just with the gun industry.
Other businesses that have little to do with firearms are also unlikely to have a gun control policy. Construction companies, for example, probably don’t have gun control policies because they don’t have anything to do with their business one way or another. The same is true of most businesses.
Wooden’s plan, though, would force those businesses to either skip the state or risk alienating other potential customers. That’s a position no business should be forced into. While outfits like Dick’s, Levi’s, and TOM’s caught a lot of flak from the gun community, at least they stepped into that fray of their own accord. No one should be pressured into such a position, and that’s what Wooden is trying to do.
With luck, everyone else in Connecticut will see it the same way.