American Outdoor Brands, formerly Smith & Wesson, approved a resolution to require the company to report on gun safety
A group of American nuns has won a second victory in their battle to force gun manufacturers to do more to prevent gun violence, convincing shareholders of American Outdoor Brands – formerly known as Smith & Wesson – to require the company to report on what it’s doing to advance gun safety.
Shareholders of the gun company formerly known as Smith & Wesson voted on Tuesday to approve a shareholder resolution introduced by a coalition of nuns that will require the company to report on what it’s doing to monitor how its guns are used in violence, as well as what it’s doing to make its products safer.
Shareholders of Sturm Ruger, another major gun manufacturer, approved a similar resolution by an overwhelming 69% majority in May, just three months after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that left 17 people dead.
On Monday, Sister Judy Byron, who introduced the resolution during Tuesday’s virtual shareholder meeting, said she was not sure if the political will to hold gun companies accountable had dissipated in the seven months since the Parkland shooting.
The approval of the resolution suggests that concern over gun violence – and shareholders’ worries about what long-term impact America’s escalating mass shooting problem might have on gun companies – is holding strong.
Both American Outdoor Brands and Sturm Ruger have bristled at the shareholder activism from religious groups, even though the resolution American Outdoor Brands shareholders approved simply requested that the companies report to shareholders about what the company is doing to advance “gun safety measures and the mitigation of harm associated with gun products”, as well as what reputational and financial risks the company faces as a result of gun violence.
Responding to the voting results at Tuesday’s shareholder meeting, American Outdoor Brands CEO James Debney said the resolution was “politically motivated” and that he was “disappointed” that shareholders were focusing on the firearms company, rather than focusing their activism on laws, CNBC reported.
The resolution noted that the Parkland shooter, like several perpetrators of mass shootings before him, had used a Smith & Wesson AR-15-style rifle.
“The proposal requires Ruger to prepare a report. That’s it. A report,” Sturm Ruger’s CEO Chris Killoy said in May, according to National Public Radio. “What the proposal does not, and cannot, do is to force us to change our business.”
In March, BlackRock, a major investor in both Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger, pressed both companies to answer a similar set of questions to the ones religious organizations had posed, including how they were investing in gun safety, and how America’s gun violence crisis might affect their business. A spokesman for BlackRock, which manages more than $6tn in assets, said he could not immediately comment on how the company had voted on Tuesday’s resolution.
The Smith & Wesson resolution was backed by 11 religious organizations, led by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, who are represented by Byron, who is also the director of the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment.
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, which announced that the measure backed by the religious groups had passed, did not have immediate information on what percentage of shareholders voted to approve it. A spokeswoman for American Outdoor Brands did not respond to a request for comment.
In advance of the vote, Byron told the Guardian that the religious activists were not trying to stop the production of guns, but simply trying to use shareholder power to press companies to do more to make guns safer.
“We are not asking that they stop manufacturing guns. We realize that we are going to have guns in our society,” Byron said.
Gun companies, she said, should be willing “to monitor their distribution chains” to see how guns get into the wrong hands, and “we’d like them to be involved in lobbying more for universal background checks and federal funding for gun safety research, and to also let us know what they’re researching in terms of safer weapons.
“We need everyone’s involvement: legislators, citizens, police, but we also also need the gun manufacturers to be involved in ending gun violence,” she added.