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Guns are the number one killer of kids and teens in America, but the gun industry continues to market its products to children, innovate to make weapons even deadlier, and refuses to contribute to the common sense gun safety conversation. Every American industry must be accountable, and the gun industry shouldn’t be an exception. Students Demand Action is leading the way on a campaign to demand change from gun manufacturers to gun retailers and every player in between.

One piece of the larger Industry Accountability Campaign is a push for colleges and universities to divest from the gun industry. The gun industry is getting rich off the uniquely-American gun violence crisis, so we’re going to hit them where it hurts: their wallets. Use this toolkit to learn what divestment is and how Students Demand Action is organizing to end college investments in gun companies.

What is Divestment

Divestment is the opposite of investment—it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds. This is something that happens all the time, from an individual’s personal financial decisions to a multibillion dollar company’s economic profile.

Why Divestment Now

Gun violence kills nearly 40,000 Americans every year and is the leading cause of death for American children and teens. This crisis costs our nation an estimated $557 billion annually—while the gun industry rakes in an estimated $9 billion each year. As guns inflict generational harm and drag the U.S. economy down, gun companies double down on business practices that place profits over human lives. Gun manufacturers insist on making their products deadlier—not safer. They produce military-style weapons and market them to civilians, including children and teens. And they flat out refuse to take responsibility for the fact that millions of guns—their products—are obtained by criminals and used in crimes.

Morals should have been enough for the gun industry to change its practices, but clearly that isn’t the case. Combined with other tactics, Students Demand Action will go full force to ensure the gun industry feels pressure through economic value.

Why College and University Divestment

Colleges and universities invest in both private and public companies, mainly through their endowments, which are large sums of money that are used to fund things on campus from faculty research, to renovating buildings, providing financial aid and scholarships, and so much more. The influence of the economic power associated with large higher education endowments is just one reason why divestment can result in tangible change. Colleges and universities have a moral responsibility to use endowment money in a way that benefits their students. Investing in gun companies that profit off of the gun sales that wreak havoc on students and communities and that have helped to make guns the number one killer of children and teens in America is certainly not in the best interest of students on any campus.

Divestment publicly signals a clear opposition to the gun industry’s dangerous practices. Colleges and universities should refuse to fund the gun industry unless and until gun companies fully reform. When done right, divesting from the gun industry should have no material impact on investment returns.

What We Want Colleges To Do

Colleges and universities may or may not be currently invested in gun companies. Regardless, students can make these three asks of our colleges:

  1. Ask your college/university to pledge not to invest.
  2. Ask your college/university to adopt a responsible investment policy.
  3. Ask your college/university to divest.

Your Campaign

Divestment is an exciting opportunity for gun violence prevention movement building, organizing and leadership skills development, and creative thinking. College divestment campaigns are not new in America, and while they take time and commitment, they have been proven effective in contributing to tangible change.

Getting Started

The first step is using our tool to find out if there is an active divestment campaign on your campus. If there is one, add your name to the campus petition demanding your school to stop investing in the gun industry.

If your campus does not have an active divestment campaign, you can complete the Bring Divestment to Your Campus form to let Students Demand Action know that you are interested in organizing a divestment campaign on your campus. The Students Demand Action Regional Organizer for your college’s state will reach out to you to learn more about your school, provide additional resources, and help you build out a campaign plan tailored to your campus.

Divestment is not something that will happen overnight. The Students Demand Action team is committed to supporting you and the students involved on your campus through every step of your campaign.


Every school is different, meaning they have different decision makers on financial investments, different power structures, different priorities, and different student bodies. What works well on one campus, might not work on another, even if they are in the same state or are the same type of institution. We’ve compiled a nonexhaustive list of tactics that can help guide your thinking when planning a divestment campaign, but the order, cadence, and number of tactics you use will vary school to school and year to year.

  • Power map your campus to find out who the decision makers are and where the most power is held. 
  • Pass a Student Government Association Resolution to signify student body support for divestment. 
  • Circulate a virtual petition to collect signatures from students, faculty, and alumni who align with our divestment goals
  • Flyer/Poster your campus with:
    • Statistics about the gun industry/gun violence
    • QR codes to a petition 
  • Post on social media tagging your university and encourage others to do the same.

Note that when organizing, you want to be thoughtful of how your college will respond to different actions; starting off with signature collections through a petition is a more strategic first step than jumping straight into more aggressive tactics that are often associated with divestment campaigns. The Students Demand Action team is here to guide you through campaign beats, support you through deciding when a tactic change or addition is strategic, and aid you in transitioning to new tools and resources.

Divestment Demands

Colleges and universities must cut economic ties with the gun industry until gun companies:

  1. STOP making AR-15s and other assault weapons that use high-capacity magazines.
  2. STOP marketing to kids and teens.
  3. STOP using fear-based ads to sell guns.
  4. STOP marketing weapons of war to civilians and using military imagery to sell guns.
  5. STOP working to get guns into movies, TV shows and video games.
  6. STOP making DIY kits that allow anyone to build untraceable ghost guns, no questions asked.
  7. STOP producing weapons that are easily modified to make them shoot more rounds more quickly.
  8. STOP working with dealers who sell guns without a background check, including at gun shows and online.
  9. CALL OUT bad actors in the gun industry and refuse to work with them.
  10. INNOVATE to make safer guns, from low-tech solutions that prevent accidental discharges to high-tech smart guns that can only be used by authorized people.
  11. PRODUCE gun locks that are harder to crack and offer discounts or rebates on strong gun safes. 
  12. ENCOURAGE gun owners to always lock up their firearms, even if the gun is for self-defense.
  13. FUND PSAs that teach gun owners how to be safer and more responsible — and call out extremists who use guns to intimidate, threaten and harass others.
  14. LABEL products to remind people that owning and carrying a gun comes with a lot of risks. (Like the surgeon general’s warnings on tobacco products.)
  15. ESTABLISH a code of conduct that requires gun dealers to secure their inventories, flag repeat customers and refuse to sell to questionable buyers, including people who just turned 18 and aren’t accompanied by a parent.
  16. KNOW who their customers are by requiring that distributors and dealers disclose when their guns are recovered in crimes, when the ATF finds infractions, and when firearms are lost or stolen.
  17. ONLY work with social media influencers who disclose their financial relationships with the gun industry and promote gun safety practices.