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Local Activists Buy 'Gun Stock' To Hold Former Smith & Wesson Company Accountable To Community

Courtesy: Matt McDermott
Shareholders of American Outdoor Brands Corporation meet in a church multi-purpose room in Hamden.

American Outdoor Brands Corporation, the gun company formerly known as Smith & Wesson, held its annual shareholders’ meeting Tuesday. The meeting was webcast, but in Hamden and Bridgeport, a group of unusual shareholders met at local houses of worship to listen. These shareholders are shaking things up.

Carol Wade is 75 years old. She goes to church, and, over the summer, bought her first share from a major gun manufacturer.

“We need to invest in this corporation in order to be able to vote and make a difference and it was very hard for me to do that," she said. "I had never thought in all the world that I would buy a share of a gun stock. If you would’ve asked me that I wouldn’t thought—oh my gosh no!"

Wade's single share cost her around $12. If you buy a share, then you’re allowed to vote company affairs.

She and other shareholders at the meeting voted for Resolution Number 4. The proposal would require the company to release a report that discloses if they’re tracking violent events that involve the guns they make, actively researching how to produce safer guns and gun products, and if they're assessing financial and "corportate reputational" risks related to gun violence is the country. Shareholder resolutions can be used to hold gun makers accountable for their products and the impacts that those products have on society. A similar resolution was approved by the shareholders of Sturm, Ruger & Co. in May.

The resolution passed -- and the company’s leadership wasn’t pleased.

“Proposal 4 is one that we believe was politically motivated, and which represented a debate that belonged not at our annual meeting and proxy but in the legislature,” said AOBC CEO James Debney on the webcast.

Debney is also a top donor of the NRA. Company executives declined to answer any questions about the proposal after the vote.

Matt McDermott is another local shareholder who voted for the proposal. McDermott owns shares from both AOBC and Sturm Ruger. As lead organizer for Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut (CONECT), he’s been bringing the idea to local churches and community members. CONECT and the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation have been working in collaboration with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. ICCR uses its influence as shareholders within Fortune 500 companies to "improve corporate decision making on environmental and social issues" and to leverage "social change." 

McDermott said Debney's remarks regarding the proposal were an effort to minimize the impact and significance of its passing. 

"The two publicly traded gun companies in the United States have now had their shareholders pass resolutions calling on the company to pay more attention and take account of gun violence," he said.

McDermott said they’re not looking to put gun companies out of business, but they do want to make the gun industry do its part when it comes to safety and accountability.

AOBC has to issue its report by February 2019.

Ryan Lindsay has been asking questions since she figured how to say her first few words. She eventually figured out that journalism is the profession where you can and should always ask questions.
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