Diocese of Western Massachusetts aims to use shareholder influence on gun manufacturer

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The Diocese of Western Massachusetts is following up on the passage of Resolution B007 at last year’s General Convention, which encourages “shareholder advocacy” to influence the landscape of gun manufacture and retail in the United States.

The Rt Revd Doug Fisher, the Bishop of Western Massachusetts who sponsored the move, is quoted by the Anglican Communion News Service:

Responding to accusations that arms manufacturer Smith and Wesson has refused to meet with young advocates of gun control, the US-based Episcopal Church has purchased shares in its parent company to carry out shareholder advocacy. The Diocese of Western Massachusetts has purchased shares in American Outdoor Brands Corporation (AOBC) after the US-based Episcopal Church lifted its ban on holding gun shares at its General Convention last year. Explaining the move, the Bishop of West Massachusetts, Doug Fisher, said that over the past year, young activists had sought on “three different occasions to engage leadership in conversation about making our communities safer and they’ve been ignored. . . Smith and Wesson can refuse to meet with those wonderful, young people, but it will be much more difficult to refuse a stockholder.”

MassLive reports that the Diocese has purchased 200 shares in AOBC, the parent company of Smith & Wesson.

The shareholder advocacy initiative hopes to build on the success last year of a group of nuns who purchased shares in gun manufacturers in order to demand via shareholder resolutions that companies provide reports on their efforts to increase gun safety and mitigate harm from their products. MassLive has more on the nuns’ story.

AOBC opposed the Resolution, and used its report, released last week, in part to push back against the shareholders who brought it, arguing in an Appendix:

Transparency is important when discussing the highly contentious issues related to private firearms ownership. In this respect, AOBC believes that it is not only appropriate, but necessary, to point out for shareholders that Proponent has publicly stated that its primary interest is not shareholder value, but rather to achieve an agenda around guns consistent with the Sandy Hook Principles, if not something more. As reported in Institutional Investor, on August 20, 2018 [link added], organizations including Proponent began purchasing shares of firearm manufacturers and retailers not because they thought these companies were “good investments,” but solely to become “activists.”

The report even objects to the term “gun violence,” arguing that,

Private ownership of firearms is a highly politicized and contentious issue. In such an environment, malleable terms such as “reasonable” can have different meanings to different people. On the extreme end of the opposition, such terms are used to obscure true agendas. Specific terms sometimes are used to craft a narrative in support of those agendas. For example, phrases such as “gun violence” are used to create a perception that the presence of a gun, in itself, somehow creates the conditions for violence.

However, according to ACNS, Bishop Fisher, who is a member of the Episcopal Church’s Bishops United Against Gun Violence, has said,

“We are not against gun manufacturers. We are hoping to engage them in being part of the change we so desperately need.”

Read more at the Anglican Communion News Service and MassLive, and find AOBC’s report here (pdf).


Photo: Bishop Doug Fisher takes part in a Bishops United Against Gun Violence public witness in Chicago, April 2017

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