This hasn’t been a particularly good week for our friends at Smith & Wesson. The only good news is that the company common stock, which had been floating around at $10 bucks a share, jumped to $15 after the company released its quarterly earning report which saw an increase both in sales and profit margins. Considering that August FBI-NICS background checks continued to slide, losing nearly 7% from August 2018 numbers, the financial resurgence of S&W was really good news.
On the other hand, the company has just received a shareholder proposal from a bunch of peacenik nuns, who are demanding that the company explain the public safety risks associated with its products. This group had previously won a vote at the Ruger annual shareholders meeting requiring that another storied gun maker explain why its products do more good than harm.
The idea that a gun maker should be policing its sales channels to help prevent the mis-use of its products was initiated in the 1990’s with a lawsuit brought by the NAACP against Smith & Wesson; the suit claiming that S&W’s sales strategies pushed guns into the hands of people who then use the products to commit violent crimes. The suit was rejected on a technicality because the judge could not find that the NAACP had legal standing to submit its litigation, but the same proposal then appeared in a deal between S&W and the Clinton Administration, provoking a boycott that almost drove the gun maker out of business altogether.
This time around, the shareholders will be asked to vote on a proposal that will require company management to: (1). Assess the potential risks to the company related to the growing national debate about gun violence; (2). report on research initiatives to develop a smart gun; (3). monitor violent events associated with the use of its products. The company’s response was fairly straightforward, claiming that they recognized the possible impact of the gun-violence debate, that there was no viable smart-gun technology that could be developed, and that all ATF trace requests on crime guns were answered promptly and correctly.
Had our friend Jim Debney, the S&W President, left it at that, the whole issue would have passed gone through one news cycle and disappeared. But Debney couldn’t leave well enough alone. He then had to touch the rawest nerve of Gun-control Nation by citing in the company’s defense the work of none other than that no-good bum, John Lott. Using data from Lott’s website, Debney argued that in jurisdictions where concealed-carry permits had been issued, violent crime had gone down – a riff on Lott’s famous (or infamous) book, More Guns, Less Crime.
This led to a column in Gun-control Nation’s media outlet, The Trace, which chastised Debney for using ‘pseudoscience’ to push back against the good Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary who initiated the shareholder proposal. The author of this latest Lott hit piece, Alex Yablon, refers to himself as a journalist but he’s really a promoter of some of Gun-control Nation’s most cherished beliefs, one of them being that if John Lott would dry up and blow away, we would suffer less violence from guns.
Having been on the receiving end of numerous verbal attacks (and threats) from some of the real schmucks who dwell on the fringe of Gun-nut Nation, I have come to the conclusion that using insulting epithets or digging up embarrassing moments in someone’s background in lieu of informed criticism of their work is nothing more than an exercise in calling attention to yourself when you really have nothing substantive to say. The research that Yablon cites as having ‘debunked [Lott] for years’ does nothing of the sort. If Yablon honestly believes that taking previously-published data (by Lott) and putting it into a synthetic controls regression model is research, this simply demonstrates that he is not a researcher and has never done scientific research at all.
I have made my own concerns about Lott’s work very clear. But research-based criticism is one thing, abusive disparagement is something else. I’m not sure that everyone in Gun-control Nation understands the difference.