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State Street discloses it will engage with weapons manufacturers, distributors

State Street Corp. (STT) said it plans to engage with weapons manufacturers and distributors to learn more about how they will ensure the safe use of their products, following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

"We will be engaging with weapons manufacturers and distributors to seek greater transparency from them on the ways that they will support the safe and responsible use of their products," State Street said in an emailed statement Monday. "And we will also seek to ensure that any shareholder resources used to influence legislation and regulations, or fund other advocacy efforts is consistent with the company's public views.

State Street spokesman Andrew Hopkins could not immediately provide additional information beyond the statement.

State Street's money management arm, State Street Global Advisors, is an investor in firearms manufacturers American Outdoor Brands Corp. and Sturm Ruger & Co. and distributor Dick's Sporting Goods, according to Bloomberg data. As of Dec. 31, SSGA held 4 million shares in the three companies with a combined value of $114.2 million.

Along with State Street, BlackRock (BLK) announced last week that it would speak with gun manufacturers and distributors to learn about their response to the Florida high school shooting.

"Given our inability to sell shares of a company in an index, even if we disagree with management, we focus on engaging with the company and understanding how they are responding to society's expectations of them," said BlackRock spokesman Ed Sweeney. "We will be engaging with weapons manufacturers and distributors to understand their response to recent events."

As of Dec. 31, BlackRock held 15.8 million shares in American Outdoor Brands, Sturm Ruger and Dick's Sporting Goods valued at $429.9 million

Other large money managers with a stake in American Outdoor Brands, Sturm Ruger and Dick's Sporting Goods include Vanguard Group and Fidelity Investments. As of Dec. 31, Vanguard held 12.7 million shares across the three companies valued at $337.8 million. As of Feb. 23, Fidelity held 1.48 million shares combined, valued at $31.1 million.

SSGA, BlackRock and Vanguard are largely passive investors.

Carolyn Wegemann, a spokeswoman for Vanguard, said that the firm does not publicly discuss "the nature of engagements with specific companies by name." However, the "firm is committed to engaging with the funds' portfolio companies across industries to discuss the impact of their businesses on society, and to both understand and promote effective disclosure of the impact on investors' long-term value."

She added: "We continuously review the risk disclosures of the companies in which we invest and voice our concerns to the boards when we believe those disclosures are inadequate."

A Fidelity spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

At least three shareholder proposals have been filed this proxy season that call for information from gun manufacturers and distributors on their efforts around gun safety and stemming gun violence. The proposals were filed by religious investors at American Outdoor Brands, Sturm Ruger and Dick's Sporting Goods. Whether those proposals make it onto companies' ballots or are withdrawn remains to be seen. A similar proposal filed at Sturm Ruger in 2002 was supported by less than 5% of shareholders, data from proxy-advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services show.

Bloomberg contributed to this story.