Church that went after Walmart now targets Cabela’s on gun sales.
A major outdoor retailer fended off efforts by an activist church to limit gun sales after investment regulators ruled the company didn’t have to propose a gun ban to shareholders.
The Securities and Exchange Commission wrote in an April 7 letter to the New York City-based Trinity Wall Street Church that national outdoor chain Cabela’s Incorporated didn’t have to include a proposal by the church that the retailer stop selling firearms with a magazine capacity greater than seven rounds. The church, which is a Cabela’s Inc. shareholder, asked the company in December to include the “social policy proposal” in its investor statements and present it to the board for a potential vote.
“Shareholders ask the Board of Directors to adopt and oversee the implementation of a policy to continue to sell handguns and rifles discharging up to eight shells without reloading, weapons connected to the sports of hunting and marksmanship, and not to sell (other than to police departments and other military and law enforcement agencies of government) firearms capable of discharging more than eight shells without reloading, the weapons of choice for mass killings and illegal gun violence,” Trinity Church wrote. “Cabela’s shareholders, the owners of the Company, should easily conclude that Cabela’s sale of high-capacity handguns and rifles worsens public safety and poses a clear danger to Cabela’s reputation as a family destination store.”
According to documents in the case, Trinity Church owns $2,000 worth of Cabela’s Inc. stock.
Cabela’s quickly fought back, arguing Trinity Church’s proposal was vaguely worded (barring the sale of any firearm “capable” of firing more than eight rounds without reloading) and was interfering with “ordinary business matters” that may be excluded from some investor materials.
“Given the numerous questions … that are raised by the Proposal but cannot be answered by relying on its text alone, the Proposal is impermissibly vague and indefinite so as to be inherently misleading,” Cabela’s wrote. “And if the Proposal were included in the 2016 Proxy Materials, neither the Company nor the shareholders voting on the Proposal would have any reasonable certainty as to the actions or measures required by the Proposal.”
This isn’t the first time Trinity Church has tried to use its investments to pressure retailers to bar some gun sales. In 2013, the church used the same strategy to force Walmart to ban the sale of so-called “high capacity” firearms, arguing the guns were “especially dangerous to the public [and] pose a substantial risk to company reputation and would reasonably be considered offensive to the community and family values that Walmart seeks to associate with its brand.”
Trinity Church eventually took Walmart to court over the proposal. And though the suit was tossed out, Walmart announced in August it would stop restocking its shelves with ARs and semi-auto shotguns designed for self defense.
The efforts by Trinity Church to bar some gun sales by pressuring investors has become a popular tactic by gun control advocates, with New York City’s Public Advocate recently trying to force TD Bank to pull its loan from Smith & Wesson and asking regulators to force Sturm, Ruger & Co. to tell investors how many of its guns are used in crimes.