SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- American Outdoor Brands, the parent company of Springfield-based Smith and Wesson is facing a major undertaking.

Management must compile a report of how often their products are involved in gun violence and present it next year.

Two weeks ago, shareholders, including some in western Massachusetts, voted in favor of this report against the wishes of the board.

It might seem strange for shareholders of a gun company to vote in favor of a proposal that associates firearms with violence, but when anyone can buy a share in a publicly-traded company, voting power can come from an unlikely source.

Matt McDermott is part of a group called CONECT which works to reduce gun violence throughout New England.

"We tried to knock on the door nicely and ask for meetings and basically we were ignored," said McDermott.

Unable to reach Smith and Wesson executives, they tried a different approach - buy company stock.

"We started buying small some numbers of shares. Just go to the annual shareholder meetings and try to assert a little more pressure," McDermott explained.

It's a growing movement that also involves the bishop of western Massachussett's Episcopal diocese.

"I always hold out hope, but to this point, they have not responded to offers to meetings," said Bishop Douglas Fisher.

"With Smith and Wesson, being right within our diocese. That became a place where people gathered to witness to Smith and Wesson that they need to make some changes in order to address the public health crisis of gun violence," Fisher added.

They eventually acquired enough shares to submit a proposal to American Outdoor Brands, the parent company of Springfield-based Smith and Wesson.

"It simply calls for the company to report to its shareholders next year about the liability and reputational risk to the company from the fact that their products get used often and incidents of gun violence," McDermott noted.

With enough voting power at the shareholder meeting, their proposal passed.

In a statement obtained by Western Mass News, American Outdoor Brands wrote:

"The proposal put forward by a very small group whose sole focus was to drive an anti-firearms agenda at the expense of our company and its stockholders won by a very slim margin. They went on to say the results, "makes clear to us that a significant number of our voting stockholders shared our position"

"We're not out to do away with all guns. We do think there could be a lot done without any more laws passed by the industry itself to prevent illegal sales to prevent theft and to develop new technology," said McDermott.

With three major gun manufacturers in Massachusetts and Connecticut alone, McDermott said it's New England's oppourtunity to take action.

"We've realized that the federal government doesn't do anything at this point in terms of gun safety, so this is our hope of addressing this issue," said Fisher.

Western Mass News reached out to American Outdoor Brands for an interview, and they declined to comment on-camera.

In the meantime, the gun violence tracking report is expected to be released to shareholders in February.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. 

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