BlackRock, manager of $5.7 trillion, to talk to gun makers over response to shootings

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The world's largest asset manager says it plans to speak with gun makers following public outcry sparked by the school shooting in Florida last week.

The world's largest asset manager says it plans to speak with gun makers after a wave of public outcry sparked by the Florida school shooting last week.

BlackRock officials said they want to reach out to the companies "to understand their response" to the shootings.

The firm, which manages $5.7 trillion for clients, indirectly owns shares in the companies through the many exchange-traded funds under BlackRock's iShares umbrella. The funds track indexes such as the S&P 500 and various sector indexes as well.

With BlackRock being by far the leader in the $3.4 trillion ETF space, with nearly $1.4 trillion under management, the firm theoretically could exert some pressure on the index providers to remove the gun makers from their listings.

Company spokesman Ed Sweeney said via e-mail that it cannot sell shares of a company in an index and instead "we focus on engaging with the company and understanding
how they are responding to society's expectations of them."

Sweeney said BlackRock has heard from investors who don't want their money tied into weapons manufacturers.

"We are working with clients who want to exclude from their portfolios weapons manufacturers or other companies that don't align with their values," he said.

Shares of companies such as American Outdoor Brands and Sturm Ruger rose Thursday after the White House said President Donald Trump was open to multiple gun control measures but does not want to "ban an entire class of firearms."

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