Shareholders Ask Smith & Wesson to Prepare Report on Gun Violence

(Bloomberg) -- Shareholders in American Outdoor Brands Corp., formerly Smith & Wesson, voted in favor of a proposal that would have the company prepare a report on gun safety during an annual meeting on Tuesday. 

The proposal was presented by Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary and specifically requests that the historic gun maker issue a report by February 2019 on “the company’s activities related to gun safety measures and mitigation of harm associated with gun products.” The shareholders are seeking evidence that the company monitors violent acts committed using its products, is researching how to create safer guns, and assessing the reputational and financial risks of gun violence in America. 

Following the vote, chief executive officer P. James Debney called the action “politically motivated.” The company declined to take questions on the issue during the annual meeting. 

Tensions have recently been rising over the proposal. American Outdoor said it was “extremely disappointed” after two proxy advisory firms recommended shareholders vote in favor of the gun safety report. Debney also addressed the proposal during the company’s last earnings call, disparaging it as “an anti-firearms agenda designed to harm the company.” 

“We are all looking for solutions to gun violence,” said Judy Byron, who presented the resolution on behalf of the Sisters, in a statement. “Not only can these solutions help save many lives, they may help AOBC’s long-term business prospects in the process.”

In addition to facing off with shareholders, American Outdoor also found itself on the receiving end of grievances from the law enforcement community. Leaders of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, a law enforcement organization that represents dozens of large North American police departments, sent the company a letter last week asking it to address issues ranging from gun theft to making firearms easier for police officers to trace.

“The key to reducing gun deaths is a concerted effort to keep firearms in the hands of law-abiding Americans of sound mind and the integration of smart technology,” Art Acevedo, the police chief of Houston, tweeted after the letter was released. In a SEC filing earlier this month, Smith & Wesson said it does not invest in research and development for smart gun technology because it does not believe such a product would interest consumers.    

American Outdoor is not the first company to face such a proposal. Earlier this year, shareholders in Sturm, Ruger & Co voted that a similar report must be prepared. In Ruger’s case, the report did not require the company to change its product offerings. 

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