Time features nuns buying gun stocks

Time features nuns buying gun stocks
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

There are a group of nuns who have been buying up stocks in gun companies for a while. Their goal is to pressure companies into adopting policies preferred by anti-Second Amendment types.

After all, these nuns aren’t exactly pro-gun.

They’re not new, but it seems that Time just found out about them.

It was her years as a teacher in the Seattle-area Catholic School system that made Sister Judy Byron particularly sensitive to gun violence. “We had fire drills in Washington, we had earthquake drills, but never in my wildest imagination would I ever have thought someone would have come in with a firearm to the school where I was,” she says. And then came the school shooting at Columbine, and years later, Sandy Hook. “I remember thinking at the time, if we don’t do something now, when we’ve murdered all those little first graders, we never will. And of course we didn’t.”

She knew more could be done by one of the biggest stakeholders in gun violence: gunmakers. “Every time there’s an incident you hear from everyone—even the NRA will put out a statement—but we never hear anything from the firearms manufacturers,” says Byron, who is an Adrian Dominican Sister, an order of about 400 nuns with a motherhouse in Michigan. “They have to be part of the solution to this.”

Almost a decade after Sandy Hook but only months after horrific shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, Byron, together with an unlikely group of activists, is going head to head with the U.S.’s biggest gun manufacturer, Smith & Wesson. On Sept. 12, the storied gunmaker held its annual shareholder meeting online. Along with the usual run-of-show for these events—re-electing board members, ratifying some salaries, approving an omnibus stock plan and officially re-installing its auditors—shareholders were asked to vote on Item 5, a proposal to get the gun manufacturer to adopt a comprehensive human rights policy. Byron and her band of investors sought to encourage the company to take a look at the way its business operations may impinge on the rights of others.

The proposal did not pass, but Byron seems undaunted. “We will continue engaging these two firearm manufacturers,” she says, pointing to recent victories her group has had with a similar vote at Sturm Ruger, and as part of the consortium who asked major credit card companies to start to give gun sales a particular merchant code, which they have now agreed to do. “Many, many groups got involved in pushing [the credit card companies],” she says. With the firearm manufacturers, we seem to be only the only investors that are really engaging them on these issues.”

Maybe because firearm manufacturers aren’t responsible?

Just a thought here.

I mean, we didn’t blame the car company for the Waukesha Christmas Parade attack, we shouldn’t blame the firearm companies for what third parties do with the products they make.

However, we also shouldn’t dismiss this effort. Right now, they don’t really have a lot of power.

What they do have, though, is time.

You see, most investors are in the market seeking a return on that investment. They want to make money. Nuns, however, don’t. They don’t have any real reason to want a return. I mean, they take a vow of poverty, so money isn’t going to be a driving force for them.

So they can wait and accumulate more and more shares.

Further, they can also find the time to show up to annual meetings whereas most investors can’t.

After all, how many of us have stocks in various companies through our retirement accounts but pay little attention to what goes on at the annual meeting? That’s most average investors. They trust the board of directors to make sound decisions. If that doesn’t happen, stocks get sold and something else is bought in its place.

We don’t go to annual meetings.

Yet corporate governance is driven by those who show up. Most investors have actual jobs and can’t afford to take off just to sit in a dull meeting.

The nuns can.

Given enough time and numbers, they may well achieve what they’re hoping to achieve, which is little more than an effort to create gun companies that will not be friendly toward gun owners.

Yet that can be countered. What we need are investment groups of our own, money invested by people with more of an interest in protecting our access to arms than in making a profit (at least on these investments) who can counter these folks.

The truth is, there are a lot more of them than there are of us. We need to start acting like it, then send a representative of the group to the annual meetings to counter the anti-gun pushes being made by these nuns.

I’d set it up if I had a clue how, but I’m willing to bet someone reading this either knows how or knows someone who does.

Let’s make it happen, folks.