As you no doubt know, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Delta Airlines, Symantec Corp. and a brace of other media-sensitive corporations have cancelled discount programs they offered to NRA members. It was their way of
conspicuously virtue signaling responding to the tragedy of the Parkland Valentine’s Day massacre and “doing something” about the growing problem of mass shootings in the US.
So what? No one joins the NRA for the discounts. While the announcements by the likes of Paramount Rx, Starkey Hearing and First National Bank of Omaha did virtually nothing to hurt the nation’s oldest gun rights org, the companies’ management managed to get themselves some free publicity for a news cycle or two.
But unlike civilian disarmament types who claim the NRA just wants to sell guns, there are actual gun makers out there who really do want to sell them. And if you’re the world’s largest asset manager, you carry a little more weight with them than some obscure Nebraska bank does.
As a recent Reuters story details, BlackRock, Inc. (1.7 trillion dollars under management) has decided to focus their attention on the publicly traded companies in which they own a stake that have interests in the firearm business.
“As it has for many people, the recent tragedy in Florida has driven home for BlackRock the terrible toll from gun violence in America. We believe that this event requires response and action from a wide range of entities across both the public and private sectors,” BlackRock said in a note to clients posted on its website.
What does that mean? BlackRock is . . .
pressing gunmakers and weapons retailers in its portfolios to explain how they monitor firearm sales and use, and it is studying the creation of new index-based portfolios of stocks that would exclude gunmakers and retailers.
Fortunately, much of the gun business is privately owned…other than American Outdoor (Smith & Wesson, Crimson Trace, Gemtech), Ruger and Vista Outdoor (Savage, Federal Premium, Blackhawk). But BlackRock swing a big..uh…stick with the big three. They’ll will be asking these companies “whether they require retailers to certify they do background checks and whether they require distributors to disclose regulatory warnings.”
And the gun makers will have to respond. Because while gun industry investments are relative pocket change to BlackRock in terms of their overall portfolio . . .
BlackRock is the top shareholder in American Outdoor and Sturm Ruger and is second-largest in a third weapons producer, Vista Outdoor Inc.
Nice gun company you have there. It’d be a shame is somethin’ was to happen to it.
Not to worry, though. There’s not much even an 800-pound investment gorilla like BlackRock can do to make life difficult for private companies like SIG SAUER, Beretta and GLOCK. Or is there?
For retailers, BlackRock said it is asking questions such as what strategies they use to prevent the potential misuse of guns, such as limits on bulk purchases.
That’s right. BlackRock will also be pestering gun sellers they own like Walmart, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Dick’s and Big 5 about their practices, too.
BlackRock Chief Executive Larry Fink in recent years has emphasized the firm’s focus on social and governance issues, aimed at reducing portfolio risk. That stance, along with the company’s size has made it a focal point of gun-safety activists.
And BlackRock apparently isn’t the only big money manager getting involved.
BlackRock had previously said it would engage with weapons companies, as have other firms including State Street Corp and Bank of America, but they have not offered as much detail about their questions to the industry.
Other big fund investors have not taken a public stance on gunmakers. Spokespeople for Vanguard Group and Fidelity have declined to discuss their engagement with specific companies.
While word of the moves by investment companies will no doubt please our friends at the Brady Campaign and Everytown, as a practical matter, little is likely to change for the gun companies or retailers. At least in the short term. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t one more hassle — and expense — they’ll have to deal with in the post-Parkland era of anti-gun hysteria.