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Shareholders pass proposal for American Outdoor Brands to produce gun safety report

A shareholder proposal requesting a report on corporate activities to promote safer guns at American Outdoor Brands Corp. (formerly Smith & Wesson), was passed by a majority of shareholders at the gun manufacturer's annual meeting on Tuesday.

The proposal, filed by Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, U.S.-Ontario, a member of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, requested the company's board of directors issue a report by Feb. 8, 2019, "at reasonable expense and excluding proprietary information, on the company's activities related to gun safety measures and mitigation of harm associated with gun products," according to proxy documents.

"We are all looking for solutions to gun violence," said Sister Judy Byron, who presented the resolution at the meeting, in an ICCR news release. "The shareholders who filed this proposal believe that, as a company directly implicated in these events, American Outdoor Brands is obligated to help find them. Not only can these solutions help save many lives, they may help AOBC's long-term business prospects in the process and we are gratified that so many of our fellow shareholders supported our resolution today."

The company's board of directors had strongly recommended a vote against the resolution. The board in proxy materials said "we do not believe that a report from us would in any way advance gun safety, mitigate criminal gun violence, or better educate our stockholders with respect thereto. In fact, the preparation of a report from us as requested by the proponent would be redundant, and therefore an unnecessary undertaking and expense." A final vote tally was not available.

Farrell Denby, BlackRock (BLK) spokesman, said in an email the money manager — American Outdoor Brands' largest shareholder at 12.4% of outstanding stock — would not be commenting on the vote. BlackRock in March posted questions on its website it would be asking major gun-makers and retailers following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Among the questions posed were asking gun manufacturers and distributors what their strategies are for "managing the reputational, financial and litigation risk" associated with making and selling civilian firearms; whether they were investing in research and development to ensure the safe use of their products; and what their policies were for determining who can buy the products, among other questions.

Brendan Paul, spokesman for State Street Global Advisors, said they cannot comment on specific votes. Carolyn Wegemann, spokeswoman for Vanguard Group, the second-largest shareholder, declined to comment.

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility is a coalition of 300 faith-based pension funds, universities and other asset owners as well as secular foundations, investment management firms, investment consulting firms and unions, representing more than $400 billion in combined assets.

Liz Sharp, vice president, investor relations at American Outdoor Brands, could not be immediately reached to provide comment.