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As you know by now, several retailers have “re-evaluated” their gun policies in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting. But one company is now looking at its relationship with gun manufacturers: BlackRock.

Last week, BlackRock—the world’s largest asset manager with more than $6 trillion under management, according to Reutersposed a series of questions to the three publicly traded firearms companies: American Outdoor Brands (which owns Smith & Wesson, Crimson Trace and Gemtech), Ruger and Vista Outdoor (Savage Arms, Federal Premium, BlackHawk, CCI). BlackRock is the top shareholder in AOB and Ruger, and it is the second-biggest shareholder in Vista. The questions were as follows:

BlackRock Questions

  • What is your strategy for and process related to managing the reputational, financial and litigation risk associated with manufacturing civilian firearms?
  • How do you assess the financial, reputational and litigation risks of the various aspects of your product lines and how is each of those products distributed?
  • What steps do you take to support the safe and responsible use of your products?
  • How do you determine where you will allow your products to be distributed? (e.g., Do your distribution channels include private sales? Do you require distributors to disclose to you warnings from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms? Do you monitor whether distributors and retailers of your products have a high volume of their guns identified as having been used in crimes?)
  • What strategies do you employ to monitor how your products are being sold? (e.g., Do you require retailers to certify that they do background checks? Do you require training of retailer staffs? Do you have a process in place to flag unusual size order or identify patterns of disproportionate sales?)
  • Are you investing in R&D to promote the safety of your products (e.g. effective trigger locking technology)? What is your strategy in this area?
  • What steps, if any, do you take to support and promote gun safety education at the point of sale?

American Outdoor Brands Responds to BlackRock

American Outdoor Brands has now responded to these questions. With regard to the first question, here’s what they said:

Any discussion of our business certainly must start with the Second Amendment, which confers a fundamental right, expressly provided in the Bill of Rights, to keep and bear arms. Further, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to buy and possess firearms. We firmly believe in our right to manufacture firearms that meet the needs and requirements of those who have the Constitutionally-protected right to own them.

On their products possibly being used illegally:

While the vast majority of our products are used lawfully, we are aware that sometimes people engage in horrible, criminal acts with our products. However, calls for us to monitor the illegal use of our firearms are misguided, since doing so would be ineffective in preventing such misuse. In addition, such monitoring by us is not realistic or feasible. As a practical matter, it is no more realistic or feasible for us to monitor whether our legal firearms are used in criminal ways, than it is for a car manufacturer to monitor how often a drunken driver causes a tragic accident with one of their vehicles, or for a mobile phone company to monitor whether its mobile devices are used in terrorist activities.

Later on in its response, AOB said it supported “greater enforcement of current laws.” This includes fixing the NICS background check system. It also touted its support, through the NSSF, of initiatives like Project ChildSafe and Operation Secure Store.

Smart Guns & Safety

AOB said it isn’t opposed to the development of smart gun tech, “nor do we believe, is the firearms industry.” But the company also said it is against any “legislation that would require the use of such technology, especially when it is not yet proven safe and reliable.” With regard to R&D, here’s what AOB said:

As far as whether we invest in R&D in this area, we do not. We are a manufacturing company, not a technology company, and we are poorly situated to hire those with the knowledge and expertise to develop such technology and to otherwise compete with technology companies who are far more knowledgeable in this area. 

Conclusion

AOB finished up its nine-page response by stating that existing laws should be enforced and NICS should be fixed. It also said the “the challenges of acute mental illness in our society” needed to be addressed.

The solution is not to take a politically motivated action that has an adverse impact on our company, our employees, our industry, our shareholders, the economies we support and, most importantly, the rights of the law abiding citizens that buy our products, but results in no increase in public safety. We must collectively have the courage to ensure any actions are guided by data, by facts, and by what will actually make us safer — not by what is easy, expedient, or reads well in a headline.

In response to AOB’s response, BlackRock told CNNMoney in a statement that “Responsible business policies and practices are critical to firearms manufacturers’ long-term prospects. We will continue to engage with these companies to further understand their business policies and practices in order to protect our clients’ investments in them.”

To read the entire AOB response in full, visit aob.com.

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