Gun makers issue reports on risk, but shareholder activists aren’t satisfied

American Outdoor Brands and Sturm Ruger detailed in their reports their efforts to promote gun safety and education, and their research into developing “smart gun” technology, which they said is still impractical and unreliable.

But in addressing issues related to their reputations, the gun makers said the definition of “risk” is a matter of perspective.

American Outdoor Brands said it hired a media monitoring firm and found that its name was only mentioned 1 percent of the time in media reports related to firearms and crime, even though it made the rifle used in the Florida school shootings.

“The conversation around firearm-related violence in the United States is largely an unbranded conversation,” the report said. “The Company’s reputation as a strong defender of the Second Amendment is not worth risking for a vague goal of improving the Company’s reputation among non-customers or special interest groups with an anti-Second Amendment agenda.”

Sturm Ruger said in its report, “We believe that the vast majority of stakeholders do not attribute the criminal misuse of a lawfully manufactured and sold firearm to its manufacturer, any more than they believe auto manufacturers are responsible for the criminal misuse of vehicles at the hands of drunk drivers.”

Both companies said the greatest risk to their reputations is defying their own customers.

Nineteen years ago, Smith & Wesson learned this the hard way, after signing an agreement with the Clinton administration, which was trying to enact policies to reduce gun violence. It promised to develop “smart gun” technology and sever ties with dealers that sold weapons used disproportionately in crimes. A boycott resulted and the company nearly went under. It alludes to this period of time in its report.

Sturm Ruger made the same argument, using Dick’s Sporting Goods as its cautionary tale. Dick’s, a sporting goods retailer, said last year in response to the Florida school shooting that it would stop selling assault style rifles and high capacity magazines and would only sell guns to those aged 21 and older. That decision cut same store sales, as the company has acknowledged.

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