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Money has the firepower in guns debate

Terry smiling headIn a week of protests and petitions against sexual harassment and the weapons trade, one ‘voice’ can’t be ignored: big money.

Fund managers, actors and an indignant group of performers in north east England are united in an alliance of righteousness that in one way or another involves big bucks.

In the US, the Florida shooting has galvanised public opinion against the country’s addiction to firearms, though public opinion is weak against the might of the National Rifle Association.

Congressmen, including former presidential candidate John McCain, have received millions from the NRA which gave $21m to the Trump campaign.

The NRA has long been the target of the country’s growing anger with the gun lobby, but even a majority of US citizens urging tighter controls could not force change in Congress. The involvement of the corporate community might just force elected members to take notice.

The latest outrage, which left 17 teachers and students dead, has prompted action by some of the biggest companies in the US, including retailers Wal-Mart and Dick’s which pledged to raise the minimum age for gun buyers.

BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, now says it may give its clients the chance to switch out of funds that include investments in firearms manufacturers.

In a note to clients posted on its website it said: “As it has for many people, the recent tragedy in Florida has driven home for BlackRock the terrible toll from gun violence in America.

“We believe that this event requires response and action from a wide range of entities across both the public and private sectors.”

Restrictions on guns is long overdue, but has arguably gone beyond the point of redemption. Even so, money talks in the US and the involvement of big business might just prove to be a turning point in this debate.

And the winner is… gun movies

It’s also Oscars weekend and the sexual harassment campaign will be a big feature of Hollywood’s big night out. A stream of actors will doubtless pledge their support for better treatment of women in light of recent revelations.

How refreshing it would be if just one of them offered support to the Florida victims and also chose to speak up against guns.

Wait a minute, though. Don’t many of the films coming out of Hollywood glamorise gun violence?

Maybe the prospect of another million dollar cheque for the latest ‘shoot-em-up’ movie will be enough for them to put the firearms issue on hold. Let’s just call this a work in progress.

Wrong target?

Another protest is taking place against weaponry, this time in Newcastle and Gateshead where two acts have pulled out of this summer’s Great Exhibition of the North arts festival in protest at the event’s sponsorship by defence giant BAE Systems.

Singer-songwriter Nadine Shah and ex-Chumbawamba member Boff Whalley’s Commoners’ Choir have withdrawn in protest at BAE Systems’ sponsorship of the 11-week event.

BAE Systems is under scrutiny for selling arms to countries such as Saudi Arabia and Ms Shah said she was “disgusted” by the company’s involvement in the festival.

BAE said it was supporting the Great Exhibition of the North “as part of its commitment to address the UK skills shortage by encouraging more young people to consider science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers”.

A clearly unimpressed Ms Shah wrote on Twitter; “[I] refuse to be in any way associated with them. I encourage all artists involved to follow suit.”

A petition has been started to persuade the organisers to refuse BAE’s sponsorship.

However, there seems to be no objection to the government supporting the festival with £5m from the government’s Northern Powerhouse fund.

This is despite the fact that it was government which helped negotiate BAE’s arms deals with Saudi Arabia.


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