In what has become a yearly tradition, a group of Catholic nuns is attending Smith & Wesson’s annual shareholder’s meeting to push the company to adopt a statement on human rights and to make a public accounting of the cost of gun violence.
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, which includes the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary U.S.-Ontario and the Adrian Dominican Sisters, wants the company to adopt a human rights policy modeled on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The nuns purchased $2,000 worth of Smith & Wesson stock for the right to attend the meeting and put their proposal before shareholders for a vote, according to Mass Live.
Smith & Wesson’s management appears unwilling to support the nuns’ activism. Adopting the human rights policy the nuns are looking for would alienate supporters in the “firearms enthusiast community,” according to Smith & Wesson documents filed in the run-up to the vote.
The company is eager to make sure gun owners don’t see Smith & Wesson as weak on gun rights. Back in the early 2000s, under different management, the company partnered with President Bill Clinton to advance the president’s gun-control agenda. The resulting protests and boycotts nearly put the company out of business.
That’s also why Smith & Wesson has refused in the past to give in to the nuns’ demands. In 2018, the nuns successfully got shareholders to pass a resolution requiring management to write reports outlining gun safety strategies, the impact of tighter regulations, and the role of smart gun technology.
But Smith & Wesson’s parent company at the time, American Outdoor Brands, said in the subsequent report that its customers wouldn’t stand for the nuns’ proposals. They indicated that the company’s reputation wouldn’t be hurt by the criminal misuse of their products by individuals the company clearly has no ties or affiliation with (e.g. mass murders, drug dealers, gangsters), and they refused to endorse any gun control measures.
“The Company’s reputation as a strong defender of the Second Amendment is not worth risking for a vague goal of improving the company’s reputation among non-customers or special interest groups with an anti-Second Amendment agenda,” the company’s report said.
This year, shareholders don’t have much reason to appear friendly with the gun control lobby. The so-called “Trump slump” of 2016-2019 is over. Last month, Smith & Wesson announced that its firearms business had revenue of $230 million in its most recent quarter, a figure that represents shipments of more than 584,000 guns, according to Mass Live.
Both of those numbers are new records, the 164-year-old company said.