In the wake of the Parkland, Florida mass shooting, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today sent letters to nine major gun company shareholders calling on them to use their financial leverage to ensure that the companies they invest in are taking steps to reduce gun violence. Since the start of 2018, there have been 34 mass shootings across the country.
On February 14, 2018, a 19-year old gunman opened fire on students, teachers, and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring at least 14 others. The gunman used an AR-15 rifle - the same style of weapon used to kill dozens in the Newtown, San Bernardino, Orlando, Sutherland Springs, and Las Vegas mass shootings.
The AR-15 rifle used in the Parkland mass shooting is manufactured by Smith & Wesson, a subsidiary of the publicly traded American Outdoor Brands Corporation (AOBC). Senator Warren wrote to several companies with large stakes in AOBC and gun manufacturers Sturm, Ruger & Company and Vista Outdoors - noting that these shareholders directly benefit from the sales of these weapons and "stock prices of gun makers often rise after mass shootings."
"Your company is in a powerful position. You have reaped significant benefits from your investment in gun manufacturers, but have done little to reduce the violence and murders caused by their products," wrote Senator Warren. "I encourage you take action to ensure that the gun companies in which you invest are taking steps to reduce gun violence."
Gun companies can establish tougher self-regulation, asking retail outlets that sell their products to impose their own requirements such as higher minimum age requirements for purchase of weapons, or requiring waiting periods prior to purchase. They can also direct company research towards the development of safer weapons and violence reduction. None of these steps would substitute action by the federal government but each would help reduce gun violence.
Reportedly, BlackRock has said it will "speak with weapons manufacturers and distributors "to understand their response'" to the Parkland shooting. This is a positive step, but having conversations is simply not enough.