Eight days after 19 children and two of their teachers were killed in a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, shareholders of the gun maker Sturm Ruger voted on Wednesday to urge the company to hire an outside firm to study the effect its business and products have on human rights.
The proposal, put forth by a group of activist shareholders who are members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, is nonbinding. It is not clear whether Ruger, one of a small number of public gun manufacturers, will choose to implement it. Ruger would have to open itself up to scrutiny by an independent firm seeking to determine how the company’s business practices and the guns it makes affect human rights on a broad scale.
The company had urged shareholders to vote against the proposal and said that its proponents were using tools designed to let investors have a say over public companies’ governance to “advance the gun control agenda they have been unable to achieve through legislative and other means.”
Ruger’s general counsel, Kevin B. Reid, did not respond to an email seeking comment. Neither perpetrator of the most recent high-profile shootings, in Uvalde and Buffalo, N.Y., used a Ruger-made gun. But Ruger is one of just three publicly traded gun companies and is thus more open to pressure from the public than other gun makers, including Daniel Defense, which made the weapon used in Uvalde.
“I’m elated that today, investors stood up for the safety of our children and told Sturm Ruger to do serious due diligence as to how its business will be part of ensuring that all in our country have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” said Sister Judy Byron, whose order, the Adrian Dominican Sisters, was among the supporters of the proposal.
The Ruger human rights impact resolution was led by the Chicago-based nonprofit hospital chain CommonSpirit Health. It is one of several efforts by ICCR members to use their ownership of gun manufacturer stocks to urge the companies to improve the safety of their products. A similar proposal is on this year’s shareholder proxy for Smith & Wesson’s annual meeting. Another effort to get Smith & Wesson to adopt a human rights policy was voted down by shareholders last year.
Sister Byron, who dialed into the virtual Ruger meeting on Wednesday morning, said that throughout the course of it, Ruger executives never mentioned the Uvalde shooting or the killing a week earlier of 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo.
“I was surprised,” she said.
Josh Zinner, the chief executive of ICCR, said that Wednesday’s victory for the group was “by no means a solution,” to gun violence or mass shootings. Instead, he saw it as a “critical first step toward mitigating them.”
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