Activist Nuns Invest in Smith & Wesson to Demand Change in Gun Laws


A group of outspoken Catholic nuns who own a small amount of Smith & Wesson stock filed the lawsuit, intending to stop the company from making “AR-15-style rifles.”

In the opening paragraph of their statement addressing the lawsuit, the nuns showed that they were ignorant of firearms by saying, “These rifles have no purpose other than mass murder.”

If such were the case, the statement did not clarify how nearly none of the 20 million of these guns that are currently in civilian hands in the United States have ever been used in even one homicide.

The suit claims that company leadership has exposed shareholders to potential liability by “intentionally violating federal, state and local laws and failing to respond to lawsuits over mass shootings,” according to the New York Post.

Smith & Wesson is incorporated in Nevada, where the complaint was brought in a state court.

This “derivative” action, which focuses on several shooting occurrences in the United States where the perpetrators utilized AR-15s or other comparable model rifles, enables shareholders to sue business boards for breach of fiduciary duty.

As per the Post, the plaintiffs are not entitled to any financial gain from the action; the corporation would receive any damages that the court finds the board accountable for.

“[C]courts generally find boards are protected from lawsuits for good-faith decisions,” the Post reported.

“Much like the pharmaceutical companies being hammered by civil judgments and fines after enjoying years of profits from the sale of dangerous opioids, Smith & Wesson’s Board willfully ignores the potentially ruinous exposure the Company faces from its marketing and sale of weapons designed specifically for mass killing,” attorney Jeffrey Norton, who is representing the nuns, said in a news release.

“We are proud to partner with these congregations of Catholic Sisters who have long sought corporate responsibility through their shareholder activism.”

Smith & Wesson warned shareholders about the possibility of “significant damages” from liability lawsuits in its 2022 annual report.

However, Mark Smith, the business’s president and CEO, told The New York Times that the plaintiffs were “not interested in the best interests of the company or its stockholders,” suggesting that he was not unduly concerned about the litigation.

“This frivolous lawsuit is simply another instance in their long history of attempting to hijack and abuse the shareholder advocacy process to harm our reputation and company,” Smith said.

Even if Norton’s claim that his customers held “more than 1,000 shares” of the corporation is accurate, it would only account for.002 of 1 percent of the 46 million outstanding shares of the company. Norton made this claim to the Times.

The full statement from the congregations of Catholic Sisters appears below.

As Catholic Sisters and women of faith who believe in the sanctity of life, our hearts ache at the exponential rise in gun deaths and mass shootings in our country that have ravaged the lives of so many children, women, men, their families, and communities. AR-15-style rifles, like those manufactured by Smith & Wesson, have been the weapon of choice for killers responsible for the deadliest mass shootings in American history. By design, they inflict the greatest number of casualties with maximum bodily harm in the shortest amount of time and are easily modified for automatic fire. These rifles have no purpose other than mass murder. They are not the sporting rifles that members of our own families and other responsible gun owners value.

As Smith & Wesson stockholders – and long-time proponents of corporate responsibility in the environmental, social and governance policies of companies in which we invest – we have sponsored resolutions that provide shareholders with an understanding of the company’s practices and exposure to risk and liability regarding the manufacture of AR-15 rifles. The most recent is a resolution calling for a third-party Human Rights Impact Assessment of the company’s practices in light of the significant and costly human rights risks the company faces. While the board recommended voting against the proposal at the September 2023 shareholder meeting, 26.7% of shareholders supported it.

Today, with the help of a team of lawyers from the New York law firm Newman Ferrara LLP, we filed a derivative complaint against the members of the Board and executive officers for breach of their fiduciary duties in prioritizing short-term profit over long-term risk. The company is intent on marketing and selling AR-15 rifles in whatever manner results in the most sales – even if the marketing is illegal and attracts a dangerous category of buyers, facilitates an unrelenting and growing stream of killings, and causes the company to face an ever-increasing and substantial likelihood of liability that threatens its long-term existence.

We call on Smith & Wesson to return to the practices of its first 153 years of existence when it held itself as a successful beacon of responsible gun ownership and did not manufacture, market, or sell military-grade, mass-killing assault weapons. We pray for an end to the AR-15 mass shootings that have stolen the lives of so many innocent people and devastated communities across the nation.

“The congregations of Catholic Sisters who, as stockholders, joined in filing the derivative complaint against Smith & Wesson officers and directors are: Adrian Dominican Sisters (Adrian, Michigan), Sisters of Bon Secours USA (Marriottsville, Maryland), Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia (Aston, Pennsylvania), and Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus & Mary, U.S.-Ontario Province (Marylhurst, Oregon),” according to the attorney’s news release.



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