Gun maker American Outdoor Brands: We won’t be pushed into ‘politically motivated’ actions
American Outdoor Brands, the maker of Smith & Wesson guns, released a letter to shareholder BlackRock on Tuesday saying it would avoid taking any action that could hurt the company’s business.
The letter came days after Blackrock, an investing powerhouse, said it wanted to reexamine its holdings in both gun makers and gun retailers following a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on February 14.
“As you review the contents of this reply, we believe it is important to tell you that we respect the national debate that is currently underway regarding firearms and safety,” the letter from American Outdoor said.
“The solution is not to take a politically motivated action that has an adverse impact on our company, our employees, our industry, our shareholders, the economies we support and, significantly, the rights of our law abiding customers, but results in no increase in public safety,” said the company.
The company made the Smith & Wesson AR-15-style rifle used to kill 17 people in the mass shooting in Parkland, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Department.
“We share the nation’s grief over the incomprehensible and senseless loss of life in Parkland, Florida, and we share the desire to make our communities safer,” said the letter.
The company said it wanted to “address the challenges of acute mental illness in our society” and improve the federal background check system, a move that has also been floated by the National Rifle Association and other groups that oppose tightened gun control.
BlackRock, which manages trillions of dollars for other investors, is the leading shareholder for American Outdoor Brands and Sturm Ruger. It is the second-biggest shareholder of Vista Outdoor. All three of those companies make guns, including AR-15-style semiautomatic rifles.
BlackRock said it will start offering clients the option to invest in funds that exclude firearm manufacturers and retailers. It also said it will more actively engage with gun manufacturers, and in some instances vote against the wishes of company management.
In response to American Outdoor, BlackRock said: “Responsible business policies and practices are critical to firearms manufacturers’ long-term prospects.”
“We will continue to engage with these companies to further understand their business policies and practices in order to protect our clients’ investments in them,” BlackRock said.
In the weeks after the Parkland shooting, gun control advocates encouraged companies to reevaluate their relationship with gun makers and the National Rifle Association, the country’s most powerful gun lobby.
Companies including Delta Air Line and Enterprise Holdings, which owns Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Alamo Rent a Car and National Car Rental, ended discounts for NRA members.
Dick’s Sporting Goods, a gun retailer, said it would stop selling AR-15-style rifles, and wouldn’t sell any guns to anyone under 21. Walmart stopped selling them in 2015, and also raised its minimum purchase age last week, as did the grocery chain Kroger, which sells guns through its Fred Meyer stores.
American Outdoor Brands reported a 33% year-over-year decline in quarterly net sales last week, and profits that sank 65%.
Another gun maker, Remington, recently said it plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.