NEW YORK, NY, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 1ST, 2022 – At this morning’s annual meeting for Sturm Ruger ($RGR), management announced that its shareholders had approved a proposal put forward by CommonSpirit Health and other members of ICCR calling for a Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA).
As our nation once again tries to process the unimaginable - a massacre at an elementary school where 21 people including 19 children, many under the age of 10, were gunned down by an 18-year old man – proponents successfully made the case to their fellow shareholders that gunmakers could not abdicate their roles and responsibilities in helping to stem the carnage perpetrated with the products they sell to the public.
While the exact vote is not yet known, the fact that the proposal passed was announced by Kevin Reid, RGR’s Corporate Counsel. Chris Killoy, RGR’s CEO referred to proponents as "anti-gun activists" and said its passage was "largely due to the support of institutional shareholders, many of whom declined to even speak with us, and others who blindly followed the guidance of ISS (Institutional Shareholder Services) or Glass Lewis.”
In its statement of opposition to the proposal, RGR claimed that it is unable to track customer misuse and/or criminal use of its weapons because it sells to distributors rather than directly to consumers. Proponents argued that its indirect sales model does not shield the company from accountability for its potential human rights risks. RGR further argued that a HRIA would lead to the financial destruction of the company.
In presenting the proposal at this morning’s annual meeting, lead proponent Laura Krausa of CommonSpirit Health said:
“RGR took the initial step of developing a human rights policy statement in 2020 which reads: ‘We are committed to respecting the human rights of stakeholders, which include our employees, business partners, and the communities in which we operate.’
However, to genuinely live into this commitment, RGR first needs to understand where its greatest human rights risks lie. These risks present significant legal, financial, and reputational threats to our business and our stakeholders. RGR needs to identify any harms that may be present as a result of its policies, practices, procedures, and products, so it can better address them. This is the purpose of the risk assessment. Many companies in many sectors have conducted such assessments and can attest to their value.”
Said Krausa of the majority vote, "It is critically important that gun manufacturers look for ways to better understand the impact their products can have. Today’s vote is a step toward more transparency and accountability for these companies. This shareholder majority in favor of the proposal invites Sturm Ruger to consider what it can do to contribute to solutions to the preventable epidemic of gun violence. We hope Sturm Ruger will agree to conduct the assessment in light of the shareholder support, and we would welcome the opportunity to partner with them in the process. We refuse to believe there is nothing we can do to reduce gun violence. We know we can find common ground on common sense approaches that respect the right to own a gun, and also the obligation to help keep our neighbors safe and healthy in the face of this epidemic of gun violence."
“Any industry that manufactures a product that ends more than 110 lives a day and is the leading cause of death among children and teens should be willing to take a hard look at its role in this public health epidemic,” said Lydia Kuykendal of Mercy Investment Services, a co-filer of the proposal. “Today, shareholders at Sturm Ruger instructed the company they own to do just that. An independent and robust Human Rights Impact Assessment will help uncover risks to the business and to investors, which we hope leads to measurable steps to curb gun violence in this country. If, as they claim, Sturm Ruger is interested in being part of the solution, they should welcome this vote and immediately move to implement it.”
Said Josh Zinner, ICCR’s CEO, “The investors engaging firearms companies are clear-eyed about the complexities in addressing the gun violence epidemic in our country, and while by no means a complete solution, given the lethality of RGR’s products, investors see company due diligence around potential human rights risks as a critical first step toward mitigating them. We are gratified that Ruger’s shareholders overwhelmingly supported this very reasonable proposal.”
Sr. Judy Byron of the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, a co-filer of the proposal at RGR and lead filer of a proposal requesting the development of a human rights policy at Smith & Wesson said, “Shareholders know that these days are challenging for those involved in the firearms business. But these folks are also sons, daughters, parents, grandparents, and members of communities and places of worship who understand the importance of being able to feel safe in school, in church, in the supermarket. We will support and pray for them as they conduct this assessment and determine what changes to their business they will need to make in order to respect human rights, protect their stakeholders and make our society safer.”
About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
Celebrating its 51st year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change. Its 300-member organizations comprise faith communities, socially responsible asset managers, unions, pensions, NGOs, and other socially responsible investors with combined assets of over $4 trillion. ICCR members engage hundreds of corporations annually in an effort to foster greater corporate accountability. Visit our website www.iccr.org and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.