Nuns fight gun violence by buying stock in firearm manufacturers
A group of activist American nuns hopes to break firearm manufacturers out of their habitual silence when it comes to gun violence.
They’re doing it by buying stock in the companies and using their clout as shareholders to make the manufacturers detail how often their products are used in mass shootings.
“The only group that isn’t involved in the issue are the gun manufacturers,” Sister Judy Byron told CTV News Channel on Thursday. “When we have a tragedy, everyone says something – even the NRA – but not the gun manufacturers.”
Byron is part of the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, a Seattle-based organization comprisingabout a dozen nun associations and related groups. The coalition purchases shares in companies in an attempt to influence their behaviour toward promoting human rights, safety and health.
“The gun violence in the U.S. is both a human rights and a health issue,” Byron said.
As mass shootings in the U.S. have increased, the coalition has increasingly made forays into the gun world. One recent success involved getting shareholders of major gunmaker Ruger to require the company to report on the number of mass shootings linked to its products.
The coalition also helped press Dick’s Sporting Goods into a series of actions after 17 people were killed in a shooting at a Florida high school in February.
Byron said filing shareholders’ resolutions helped open up dialogue between the nuns and the retailer, which ultimately announced that it would stop selling assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, as well as raise its minimum age requirement for a gun purchase to 21. In addition, the company said it would hire lobbyists to push for stricter gun control legislation.
“Hardly any corporation ever hires a lobbyist to do that sort of thing,” Byron said.
The coalition does not own nearly enough shares to press these changes through on itsown. They often receive support from larger, institutional investors. In the case of the resolution presented to Ruger, Byron said, there was 69 per cent support from shareholders.
“You don’t get 69 per cent votes on shareholder resolutions. Major investors joined with us in asking the company to do this,” Byron said.
Now the nuns have set their sights on American Outdoor Brands, which owns gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson. They’ve filed a resolution similar to the one that passed at Ruger, requiring the company to detail what it is doing to improve the safety of its products and prevent its products from being used to perpetrate violence.
Shareholders will vote on the resolution Sept. 25.