BlackRock Seeks Answers From Gun Makers, Retailers

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A week after the killing of 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the world’s largest asset management firm, BlackRock Inc. (NYSE: BX) announced that it would begin a series of meetings with gun makers and distributors “to understand their response” to the shooting.

Last Friday, BlackRock offered a more detailed description of its position and what it is talking to these companies about. The management firm notes that it holds none of the three publicly traded gun makers — American Outdoor Brands Corp. (NASDAQ: AOBC), makers of Smith & Wesson; Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc. (NYSE: RGR); and Vista Outdoor Inc. (NYSE: VSTO) — in its active equity portfolios.

However, if one of these firms is included in an index fund based on a third-party index, BlackRock has no control of the funds’ holdings and cannot dispose of them. Such assets represent 0.01% of the firm’s total $1.6 trillion of assets under management.

Over the last week BlackRock said it has engaged with both gun makers and retailers. Among the questions it has been asking the gun makers are:

  • What is your strategy and process for managing the reputational, financial and litigation risk associated with manufacturing civilian firearms?
  • What steps do you take to support the safe and responsible use of your products?
  • How do you determine where you will allow your products to be distributed? (Do your distribution channels include private sales? Do you require distributors to disclose to you warnings received by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives? Do you monitor whether distributors and retailers of your products have a high volume of their guns identified as having been used in crimes?)
  • What strategies do you employ to monitor how your products are being sold? (Do you require retailers to certify that they do background checks? Do you require training of retailer staffs? Do you have a process in place to flag orders of unusual size or identify patterns of disproportionate sales?)

The firm reported that it is also asking gun retailers questions like these:

  • What types of firearms do you currently sell? And what share of your revenue and profit do they represent?
  • What is your strategy to manage the reputational, financial and litigation risk associated with selling these products?
  • What are your policies and practices for determining to whom you will sell firearms? (Do you set age limits? Do you require background checks and what is the rigor of those background checks?)

The firm also said it will monitor recent announcements from companies like Dick’s and Walmart that they will enforce a prohibition on gun sales to anyone under the age of 21. BlackRock will also monitor these and other companies “to assess their policies and practices in light of evolving societal expectations.”