A group of liberal activists is set to initiate a landmark legal challenge against a prominent U.S. gun manufacturer, Smith & Wesson, over its handling of AR-15 rifles. The impending lawsuit, details of which were shared with Fox News Digital, accuses the company’s board of exposing shareholders to excessive liability through the production and marketing of these firearms, allegedly in violation of various laws.
According to the lawsuit draft, the activists, who are also shareholders, claim that Smith & Wesson has willfully ignored potential legal risks associated with the manufacture and sale of AR-15 style rifles and similar semiautomatic weapons. They argue that this lack of oversight by the company’s board has unnecessarily heightened the company’s liability.
This legal action forms part of a broader strategy employed by liberal activists nationwide, who are increasingly turning to the courts to address concerns over gun control. It aligns with the growing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) movement, which advocates for more socially responsible investment practices. This movement pressures investors to consider factors beyond financial returns, including social impact and ethical considerations.
ESG investments have faced criticism for allegedly prioritizing political objectives, like combating climate change, over maximizing investor returns. However, proponents of ESG investing argue that it identifies potential risks that traditional investment guidelines might overlook, potentially leading to safer and more stable returns. They also contend that ESG considerations can uncover more lucrative investment opportunities.
A notable voice among the plaintiffs is Sister Judy Byron, a dedicated anti-gun activist. She recently contributed to a statement from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, representing investors with $634 billion in assets, urging gun manufacturers and related companies to take significant steps towards addressing gun violence as a public safety concern.
Byron and her group of shareholders have been vocal in their advocacy since the 2018 Parkland shooting in Florida. Their efforts have already led to some gun manufacturers disclosing their initiatives towards developing safer firearms, as reported by NBC News. Byron emphasizes her commitment to social justice and systemic change in the firearms industry.
Despite these efforts, Smith & Wesson’s shareholders have consistently rejected proposals from activist shareholders over the past three years. The most recent proposal in September 2023 was dismissed by a substantial 73% of the company’s stockholders.
The plaintiffs acknowledge that Smith & Wesson has been assessing its legal liabilities regarding its products but maintain that the company should be held accountable for allegedly breaching fiduciary duties through its AR-15 rifle operations.
Fox News Digital sought comments from the Adrian Dominican Sisters, one of the plaintiffs represented by Byron, but had not received a response at the time of reporting.