Nun heartened by investors’ support for human rights proposal for gun-maker

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Investor support for gunmaker Smith & Wesson to adopt a human rights policy continues to grow.

At Smith & Wesson’s shareholders meeting in September, the proposal received support from 42% of all shares held in the company, up from 36% the last time it was put to a vote in 2019.

“It’s a great vote for a human rights proposal from a gun manufacturer. And I think that also signals to shareholders that something needs to be done about gun violence, ”said Dominican Sister Judy Byron, Seattle-based consultant for the Dominican Sisters Adrian Portfolio Advisory Board.

Sister Byron is also director of the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, a 14-member grouping of religious communities and Catholic health systems, all members of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility.

“When we started this work in 2016, we did it as shareholders, because we realized that gun violence was so serious. All the players were there – the government, the people, there were all kinds of rights organizations – but the only group that was not involved was the gun manufacturers and also the retailers, ”he said. Sister Byron told Catholic News Service by telephone on October 1. maintenance.

“There would be a press release from everyone, even the National Rifle Association (NRA), but you never heard from the manufacturers.”

After a request from some investors, Smith & Wesson produced a report on what they were doing on the matter in 2018. “It was quite disappointing,” Sister Byron said. “Basically, they took no responsibility.”

The ICCR, on behalf of the Northwest Coalition, proposed a shareholder resolution in 2019 for Smith & Wesson to produce a gun violence statement that included a due diligence policy. The resolution garnered 36% support.

“We tabled it again last year and they issued a corporate stewardship policy, so we withdrew our resolution for dialogue,” Sister Byron said. But the talks came to naught. “We have passed this year, and yes, we are very happy.”

At the September 27 shareholder meeting, Sister Byron said, “Our advocacy on gun safety has been characterized by S&W management as a ruse whose real intention is to bankrupt the company and to abolish the second amendment. We have always said this was not our program.

She added, “We sincerely believe that Smith & Wesson has the knowledge and expertise to design the solutions we need to reduce gun violence and save lives. … A human rights policy would help Smith and Wesson demonstrate that they are neither deaf nor insensitive to calls for change and for solutions to gun violence that we so desperately need.

“It doesn’t make sense these days to realize how backward guns are,” Sister Byron told CNS. “If you think about the way everything is designed by technology: I’m talking to you on my cell phone, and no one can use my cell phone except me. If I had a gun on my table, anyone could use that gun.

Three days after the shareholders’ meeting, Smith & Wesson announced that it was leaving its headquarters in Springfield, Massachusetts, its home since the company was founded in 1852, and moving to Maryville, Tennessee, near Knoxville. The top two reasons for the decision that the company listed in the announcement were “support for the Second Amendment” and “a favorable business environment.”

The Massachusetts Legislature is considering a bill that would ban the manufacture of certain firearms that Smith & Wesson chairman Mark Smith says make up 60% of the company’s revenue.

About 750 manufacturing jobs and headquarters staff will be relocated from Massachusetts to Tennessee. Smith & Wesson is also closing factories in Connecticut and Missouri to further consolidate its weapons manufacturing capacity in Tennessee.

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