We live in an age where gun violence in America is completely out of control. A single news report of a mass shooting at an elementary school should have been enough to inspire a complete overhaul of gun control laws in our country. And yet, it seems to many rightwing and libertarian politicians and gun owners, mountains and mountains of dead school children is a small sacrifice, so long as people get to own firearms.
According to Education Week, there have been over 40 school shootings in 2022 alone (as of writing). The site additionally notes that “There have been 137 school shootings in which at least one person was killed or injured since 2018.”
While several states have passed stricter laws surrounding gun sales, especially in the wake of mass shootings, many Americans are still frustrated with the near-total lack of federal action.
In 2022, President Joe Biden passed the first major gun legislation in decades, but it focused more on safety and intervention than weapon bans.
In the meantime, many Americans are tired of waiting and using their pocketbooks to help contribute to positive change. Some are contributing money to organizations such as the National Compassion Fund, which raises donations for the victims of mass shootings and other violent crimes.
Others are embracing an approach called socially responsible investing. The ESG investing movement is inspiring individual investors to redirect their money to investments that align with their values.
Are You Currently Investing in Gun Manufacturers?
Most investors who are morally opposed to guns are likely to already avoid investing in gun manufacturers directly. But avoiding gun stocks like Sturm Ruger & Co. (RGR) and Smith & Wesson Brands (SWBI) may be a bit trickier when it comes to funds.
For example, over 90 exchange-traded funds currently invest in Sturm Ruger, while 65 offer exposure to Smith Wesson brands. Investing in gun stocks may not always be as easy to avoid as you’d like to think.
They may show up in a small-cap index fund, an extended market index fund, or even a total market index fund. Both Smith & Wesson Brands and Sturm Ruger are part of the Russell 2000 and Russell 3000.
Sturm Ruger is additionally part of the S&P 600, while Smith Wesson is part of the NASDAQ composite. While both admittedly carry minimal weight in most Russell 2000 index funds, it may be worth taking a good look at your 401(k) holdings if you want to avoid guns completely.
In addition to the two publicly traded gunmakers, you may also want to keep an eye out for gun retailer American Outdoor Brands (AOUT) which sells guns and other defense products. Other public companies that manufacture guns and ammunition include Vista Outdoor (VSTO), Ammo Inc. (POWW), and Olin Corp. (OLN).
Limiting Your Investment Exposure to Guns
Aside from businesses that manufacture civilian firearms, some mutual funds may also invest in major military contractors like Lockheed Martin (LMT) which is known to sell controversial weapons of all shapes and sizes.
In addition to major gun retailers and ammunition manufacturers, there are also plenty of publicly traded chain stores that sell guns. Public companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS), Big 5 (BGFV), and Academy Sports and Outdoors (ASO) sell an assortment of guns to the public.
Walmart (WMT) is still a major supplier of hunting rifles, though it’s not as large of a gun retailer as it used to be. Since 2015, Walmart has not sold weapons derived from assault rifles (such as AR-15 derivatives) and in 2019, the company stopped selling pistols (handguns to the layman) after a mass shooting in an El Paso Walmart store.
As you can see, avoiding exposure to gun companies can be a bit more complicated than it sounds. From small-cap stocks to those with market capitalizations in the billions, gun stocks often show up in funds of all sizes.
Luckily, there are concrete steps you can take to find out if your money is invested in a fund with ties to weapon sales or manufacturing.
See Related: Best Weapon-Free Funds to Invest in Today
How to Find a Fund That Avoids Guns
“It’s amazing how much power people have in their money, in their savings, in their 401(k) plans,” says Andrew Behar, the CEO of the nonprofit organization As You Sow. “It really just comes down to: Do you want to profit off of assault weapons, handguns, and ammunition? If you don’t, you need to know what you own.”
As You Sow has developed sites like WeaponFreeFunds.org and GunFreeFunds.org that help users find funds in line with their values. To see how any particular investment scores on anything from guns to fossil fuels, simply input the name, asset manager, or ticker for a free breakdown.
Investors can also find potential investments for their retirement accounts or portfolios by using a series of simple search filters. You can then invest through your 401(k), IRA, or directly through online brokerages such as Robinhood or Schwab.
Some brokerages, such as eToro, Betterment, and M1 Finance also have ESG-friendly resources or scoring systems to help investors remediate adverse impacts of their investments. Last but not least, there’s OpenInvest, a robo-investing option designed to streamline investing in a portfolio in line with your values.
What to look for in Gun-Free ETFs and Mutual Funds
Fortunately, there are plenty of great investment options out there that include zero exposure to gun manufacturers or retailers as part of their investment policy. Just keep in mind that it’s vital to do your own research into any investment you’re considering.
In addition to ESG considerations, make sure that you check out the fund’s performance in recent years. If you plan to buy and hold an investment until you retire, then you’ll want to ensure that it has a proven track record dating back at least 5-10 years.
You’ll also want to look for funds with the lowest possible fees. In addition to front-load or back-end load fees, many funds charge an annual management fee, usually as a percentage of assets under management.
It may also be worth noting that some may want to look into the asset managers behind various funds. While BlackRock and Vanguard now both feature a selection of weapons-free/ESG investment options, they are still two of the largest institutional investors in gun companies overall.
This may be a hang-up for some investors, while others may find supporting these efforts a way to make a statement in itself.
The Best Gun-Free Funds to Look Into
Not sure where to start? While we are not financial advisors and strongly encourage you to research your potential investments, we can steer you in the direction of some funds worth looking into, if you don’t want to be part of America’s gun problem.
The funds you’ll find below offer are not invested in any gun or weapons manufacturing stocks or organizations. We’ve also taken into consideration other ESG-related factors and third-party assessment ratings from reputable analysts.
So, without further ado, here are our top choices for weapons-free funds worth checking out.
1. Boston Trust Walden Balanced Fund (WSBFX)
Boston Trust Walden’s WSBFX is an actively managed portfolio of high-quality stocks and fixed-income securities. Intended for long-term investors, roughly 70% of the portfolio is made up of leading stocks like Apple, Microsoft, and Alphabet.
The remaining holdings contain a mixture of bonds, money market, and treasury notes. WSBFX’s investments are selected in accordance with the fund’s ESG guidelines.
- Low risk
- Historic above-average returns
- Features a nice large-cap blend without sacrificing values
- Some exposure to companies connected to fossil fuels
- $2,500 minimum investment
See Related: Best Charles Schwab ESG Funds
2. Shelton Green Alpha Fund (NEXTX)
NEXTX is a relative newcomer that was first established in 2013. Best for long-term investing, it focuses primarily on mid-cap growth stocks in the “green economy.”
Some of the fund’s top holdings include JinkoSolar Holding Co Ltd, Brookfield Renewable Corp, and Switch. It also invests in a number of biotech names such as Crisper Therapeutics and Moderna.
Though around 70% of its holdings are in U.S. equities, it does provide exposure to a nice selection of foreign holdings such as Taiwan Semiconductors.
- Focus on green and ESG-friendly companies
- Great track record of returns so far
- Nice mixture of mid-cap growth stocks
- Higher than average expense ratio
- Minimum $1,000 investment
3. Vanguard FTSE Social Index Fund Admiral Shares (VFTAX)
VFTAX is one of Vanguard’s ESG-friendly options and is designed to track the performance of the FTSE4Good US Select Index. One of VFTAX’s perks is that it features one of the lowest expense ratios we’ve yet to come across.
The fund’s portfolio offers exposure to a huge array of large and mid-cap stocks from over 400 companies that have been screened based on ESG factors. For some investors, it may be an interesting alternative to investments that track other major indexes.
- Impressively low fees
- Exposure to large blend growth and value stocks
- Average returns
- The risk may outweigh historical returns for some investors
- No exposure to weapons, but many include companies involved in deforestation
See Related: VFTAX Review: Is This a Good ESG Mutual Fund?
4. Amana Mutual Funds Trust Growth Fund Investor (AMAGX)
Many ESG investors may find their values in line with those of faith-based options like AMAGX, which chooses investments in line with the Islamic faith. Consequently, you’ll find the fund’s portfolio free from companies with ties to things like weapons, alcohol, tobacco, and fossil fuel extraction.
With a 5-star rating from Morningstar and a history of solid track record, this is an investment that proves that ESG principles don’t have to come at the cost of returns.
- Average annual expenses and history of high returns
- Operates in line with faith-based and ESG principles
- Exposure to a nice blend of large-cap growth stocks
- $2,500 investment minimum
See Related: Best Gender Equality Funds
5. Thornburg Better World International Class A (TBWAX)
Those who are looking for exposure to foreign stocks will find an ESG-friendly choice in TBWAX. The mutual fund focuses primarily on foreign securities that hold up to a broad range of ESG factors.
Created in 2015, TBWAX is a newer option that’s already showing strong promise. The only downsides are that its higher returns also come with higher fees.
- Exposure to a wide blend of foreign large-caps
- Sustainability mandate
- Has historically offered healthy returns
- $5,000 minimum investment
- Higher fees
6. Brown Advisory Sustainable Growth Fund Investor Shares (BIAWX)
Brown Advisory’s BIAWX invests primarily in mid and large-cap companies that use sustainable business practices. But at the same time, the portfolio manager looks for choices that show probable signs of outperforming similar companies in their industries.
Some of BIAWX’s top holdings include UnitedHealth Group Inc, Danaher Corp, Microsoft, and Visa. The vast majority of its assets include U.S.-based large-cap growth stocks.
- Average expenses and strong long-term history of returns
- Committed to sustainable practices
- Exposure to a nice blend of tech, finance, and consumer cyclical staples
- $2,500 minimum to invest
7. Invesco DWA Technology Momentum ETF (PTF)
If you’re looking for a nice assortment of momentum investments from the technology sector, then Invesco’s PTF is a great option to check out. It seeks to track the Dorsey Wright® Technology Technical Leaders Index and is rebalanced every quarter.
PTF offers strong exposure to the technology sector, all while maintaining solid ESG ratings. Top holdings include Intuit, Apple, and Enphase Energy Inc.
- A great choice for momentum traders
- Strong selection of top technology innovators
- Reasonable expense ratio and strong long-term returns history
- No dividends
- You may find better returns elsewhere
See Related: Best Fidelity ESG Funds to Invest
8. Calvert Small-Cap Fund (CSCCX)
CSCCX is a nice choice if you’d like to add small-cap exposure to your portfolio. It invests primarily in small-blend U.S. equities from a range of different industries, including financial services, technology, industrials, and healthcare.
Free from guns and weapons, CSCCX also has a strong track record when benchmarked against similar funds such as iShares Morningstar Small-Cap ETF (ISCB). It also boasts a 5-star rating from Morningstar.
- Diverse exposure to small caps from a number of industries
- Strong historical performance when benchmarked against similar investments
- Great exposure to value and growth stocks
- Higher than average fees
- Minimum $1,000 investment
9. Pax Global Environmental Markets Fund (PGRNX)
If you’re looking to add exposure to a blend of U.S. and foreign large caps, then PGRNX is worth looking into. It’s no surprise that this investment has a solid ESG grade, as it invests primarily in companies that produce or at least use environmentally friendly products.
From industrials and technology to basic materials and healthcare, PGRNX invests in solid companies with a $10B+ market cap that are likely poised for growth.
- A solid blend of U.S. and foreign large caps
- Focus on sustainable technology and practices
- Semi-annual dividends
- Higher expense ratio
- Good but not spectacular long-term returns record
See Related: Best ESG Funds to Invest for Impact
10. Invesco S&P 500 GARP ETF (SPGP)
Investco’s SPGP seeks to track the S&P 500 Growth at a Reasonable Price (GARP) Index. This EFT offers a great opportunity to invest in stocks with above-average earnings growth that have yet to achieve incredibly high valuations.
With a strong long-term track record, low fees, and solid weapon-free grade, SPGP is a great option for buy-and-hold investors.
- Great selection of growth stocks from a range of different industries
- Solid long-term track record
- Annual dividend
- Can be somewhat volatile, which may or may not bother some investors