Majority of Sturm Ruger investors vote for gun-safety report

(Reuters) - (This May 9 story has been refiled to correct name of organization to “Catholic Health Initiatives” from “Catholic Health Services” in thirteenth paragraph.)

FILE PHOTO: Rifles are seen at the Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. gun factory in Newport, New Hampshire January 6, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/File Photo

A majority of Sturm Ruger & Co investors on Wednesday voted to support a call for the gun maker to produce a report on the safety of its products, in what shareholder activists called the first victory for such a proposal.

The resolution passed in the wake of marches and demonstrations in support of gun control during the three months since 17 people were shot dead at a Florida high school.

It calls on Sturm Ruger to report by next year on how it monitors the use of its products in violent crimes, on research to produce safer firearms and on risks gun violence could pose to its reputation and finances.

Sturm Ruger and rival publicly traded gun makers such as American Outdoor Brands Corp have been under pressure from fund firms, banks and retailers since the Parkland, Florida, massacre.

Religious investor activists sponsored the resolution. Southport, Connecticut-based Sturm Ruger did not disclose the margin by which it passed at its Wednesday annual meeting in Prescott, Arizona.

Chief Executive Officer Christopher Killoy said the maker of handguns and assault-style rifles would prepare the report but would not be forced into changing its business.

“What it does not do, and cannot do, is force us to adopt misguided principles created by groups who do not own guns, know nothing about our business, and frankly would rather see us out of business,” Killoy said of the resolution.

He rejected calls to meet with shareholders.

A majority of the company’s shares were owned by six institutional investors as of recent filings, indicating the measure could not have passed without support from at least one of them.

Top investors include BlackRock Inc and Vanguard Group, which together own about 25 percent of the company. A BlackRock representative did not immediately comment. A Vanguard representative declined to comment.

Major proxy advisers had recommended investors vote for the safety report.

The religious activists’ proposal discussed the possibility of developing “smart guns,” with electronic limits on their ability to fire.

“If new product development, as you said Mr. Killoy, is the lifeblood of Sturm Ruger, safer guns need to be on that development agenda,” one proposal supporter, Colleen Scanlon of Catholic Health Initiatives, told the meeting.

A representative for the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility said similar proposals at Sturm Ruger got less than 6 percent support when they were last voted on, in 2001 and 2002.

Reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston; editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio