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Our View: Nuns dare go where others will not on guns

Gun manufacturer Ruger must report on impact of its lethal products

Published on May 14, 2018 9:34AM

Gun shop owner Tiffany Teasdale-Causer displays a Ruger AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in 2017 in Lynnwood, Washington.

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Gun shop owner Tiffany Teasdale-Causer displays a Ruger AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in 2017 in Lynnwood, Washington.

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A couple of years ago, when a group strongly supported by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary started buying shares in Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger and Dick’s Sporting Goods, an observer might have raised an eyebrow.

All became apparent when a representative of the umbrella group — whose members include the Marylhurst nuns — appeared at the annual shareholders meeting of one of the nation’s largest gun manufacturers.

The shareholder advocacy organization is called Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. It successfully pressured Ruger’s leaders to compile a report assessing how it tracks gun violence associated with its products.

This demand was backed by a majority of shareholders, including BlackRock, an asset manager and Ruger’s largest investor.

Colleen Scanlon, senior vice president of Catholic Health Initiatives, one of the coalition’s members, summed up the strategy to the New York Times. “The American public will continue to seek solutions to gun violence from all stakeholders, but they will look first to hold gun manufacturers accountable for the safety of their products,” she said.

The action won’t stop the company producing lethal AR-15-style rifles, the type legally available and used in several recent mass shootings. But it will force Ruger to evaluate its operations and open them up to broader public scrutiny.

Along with this effort, some are calling on companies like Ruger to develop safer products, such as smart gun technology using thumbprint readers, like those used on some cellphones.

Last week’s confrontation caused a stir.

The Times described Christopher J. Killoy, Ruger’s chief executive, as defiant after the vote against him. He was quoted saying that Ruger would not “adopt misguided principles by groups that do not own guns and do not understand guns.”

The notion that people who don’t own guns somehow have a less-valuable opinion than gun owners is absurd. Many people who support our veterans have never served in uniform. Many people who support the right to choose have never had an abortion.

The simple but sad fact is that Americans are being massacred because of the availability of dangerous weapons. Under any definition, the unacceptable prevalence of gun violence in today’s America is a public health emergency.

To its credit, Dick’s Sporting Goods has stopped selling AR-15s after the Florida school shooting. Another company, Vista Outdoor, is selling its gun-making business.

Pressure is mounting.

The courageous Parkwood survivors have translated grief for their dead classmates into a nationwide drive encouraging young people to register to vote. The 2018 midterms will see change.

We’ve noted before that responsible gun owners hold the key to finding an acceptable compromise to this sickening issue. They have a shrinking time window to come to the negotiating table or suggest their own compromises.

So much has been made of the excessive influence of special interest groups on our elected representatives that calls for change continue to escalate from all shades of the political spectrum.

The stranglehold that the National Rifle Association has on any potential right-of-center candidate perpetuates one of the biggest problems facing modern American society. A moderate Republican who supports the Second Amendment but wants to do something about the carnage in our schools must still pass an NRA litmus test — otherwise he or she will face a well-funded opponent in the GOP primary.

In recent years, the Times reported, Ruger has donated $9 million to the NRA.

It is not difficult to connect these dots.

Strategies for making the United States safer come in many forms, sometimes from surprising quarters. Pressure on arrogant gun manufacturers from the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary is one we welcome.



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