As we reported previously, BlackRock Inc. developed a sudden affinity for gun control after the Parkland, Florida spree killing. The trillion dollar investment group sent a letter to American Outdoor Brands, Ruger and Vista Outdoors — companies in which they hold a substantial stake — asking the gunmakers a series of pointed questions about the their business practices [see: end of this article]. American Outdoors has this to say about that . . .
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.
American Outdoor Brands, formerly Smith & Wesson, no doubt remembers how a consumer boycott brought them to the brink of bankruptcy, when the company cut a deal with the Clinton administration for “voluntary reforms,” including “child-safe triggers,” “smart guns” and a ban on sales to “bad apple” gun dealers.
Click here to read American Outdoor brands response to BlackRock’s blackmail (which tells BlackRock to FOAD in its own special way), some 18 years after the boycott. It includes this bit about the company’s responsibility for the criminal use of its products, such as the Smith & Wesson AR15 the Parkland killer used to take the lives of 17 innocent people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
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. In fact, it likely would be easier for those companies given the limited history of their products. In contrast, we have been in business for 166 years, with our firearms in the stream of commerce since 1852.
American Outdoors Brands’ response goes on to tout its support for the Fix NICs bill (and background checks in general) and beg off on the whole “smart gun” thing. Like this:
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. In fact, to divert significant resources to these initiatives would be irresponsible when the most recent market research shows there is very little interest or desire among firearm consumers for “smart gun” products, even if they were available.
In short, we’re here to make money guys. Legally. And in case you missed it . . .
The solution [to firearms-related violence] 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.
While you’d think that would be enough for BlackRock, clearly, it isn’t. The big question is, what happens next? How will BlackRock turn the screws on the American firearms industry? Watch this space . . .
List of questions BlackRock Inc. asked American Outdoor Brands:
– 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?