BOSTON Dec 13 Activist investors have asked
Amazon.com Inc to review its sales of firearms
accessories, concerned that the online retailer offers products
that could be used to convert semi-automatic rifles into weapons
that fire too rapidly to be legal.
The shareholder scrutiny of the world's largest online
retailer comes a day before the anniversary of the school
massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 26
people. The incident led to extensive debate over U.S.
gun-control laws and pressure on gunmakers and traditional
The activists include the managers of funds that promote
themselves as socially responsible investors, and a deputy of
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who manages the
state's retirement fund. They sent Amazon Chief Executive Jeff
Bezos a letter on Nov. 25 and showed it to Reuters on Thursday.
The group of investors, which said it had not heard back
from Amazon, asked for details like whether the company
restricts sales of dangerous products and what percentage of
revenue it generates from firearms accessories.
The activists said in the letter that they were not
suggesting the company is violating U.S. laws. "Nevertheless, we
are deeply concerned that these product offerings allow your
customers to increase the lethality of their weapons and to
effectively convert semi-automatic weapons into machine guns,
which are illegal under U.S. law," states the letter.
An Amazon representative said the company does not sell guns
or ammunition and cited its policies in response to other
questions. The company's website notes that some jurisdictions
might restrict the sale of some products. It also says it
prohibits third parties from selling on Amazon "converters that
can give a gun automatic capability" and "parts or accessories
related to assault weapons."
The activists' letter was signed by Adam Kanzer, general
counsel of Domini Social Investments of New York and sent on
behalf of 33 other investors that collectively have more than
$490 billion under management and include Amazon shareholders.
They noted the case of Newtown where gunman Adam Lanza used
weapons including an AR-15 type rifle, a popular weapon that can
be converted to fire more rapidly.
The activists cited products offered for sale on Amazon.com
such as a gun stock that "allows shooter to shoot as quickly as
desired" and a lever for the AR-15 that "allows you to lock the
bolt back and release the bolt with just a slight movement of
your trigger finger which significantly improves the speed and
efficiency of reloads," according to both the site and the text
of the letter.
Similar levers were also available on the online sites of
other retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc and
Cabela's Inc. Cabela's also sold a similar gun stock.
Kanzer said his firm did not contact either of the other
retailers on the issue because Domini does not own their shares.
A Cabela's spokesman declined to comment.
A Wal-Mart spokesman, Kory Lundberg, said the store avoids
selling accessories that could be used to illegally modify a
firearm. Among other restrictions, he said, it also does not
sell handguns except at a few stores in Alaska, and does not
sell guns online.