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MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2019

- BOATING -
Earlier this week, a Vermont State Senator introduced legislation (SB 69) that would effectively ban wake surfing in the state by prohibiting boat “plowing,” in which a bow rides high and the boat stays off plane, a law opposed by NMMA and other boating interests.
- COLLEGIATE COMPETITIONS -
The Association of Collegiate Anglers (ACA) is pleased to announce the five (5) new college team members that have been selected to the join the existing Garmin College Team for the 2019 college fishing season.
- COMPETITION -
As much as David Fritts is enjoying the mild weather this week in Florida, he hopes it’s a little bit colder when he arrives in northern Georgia for next week’s Toyota Bassmaster Elite at Lake Lanier.

The nearly week-long rifle competition known as the Robert Mitchell Rifle Championships concluded today at the Olympic Shooting Center in Colorado Springs with titles awarded in the Men’s and Women’s Air and Three-Position Rifle events.
He became the oldest man ever to win a Bassmaster Elite event in 2016. Now, Rick Clunn’s proven -again- that he refuses “to believe all of your best moments are behind you” by winning - again- on the St. Johns River
- CONSERVATION -
Tampa Bay Watch has been granted $100,000 from Duke Energy Foundation to support a multi-level habitat restoration program that will be showcased in their Discovery Center at the new St. Petersburg Pier.
- FACILITIES -
The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) is conducting a $3.3 million renovation of the Sterling Springs Fish Hatchery in Oak Creek Canyon, north of Sedona.

- FIREARMS -
The new POINTER Phenoma shotgun line comes in a variety of gauges, camo, Cerakote colors, styles and various sizes for young and old. The POINTER Phenoma comes standard with five chokes in the box, along with fiber optic front sights, gas- operated cycling system, and a single –round magazine cut off.
- GEAR -
The Firefield Scarab 9-12” Two-piece Bipod is available in M-LOK and KeyMod to fit the needs of all shooters. A two-piece split design creates stability over monopods with the help of grip feet which grasps securely on all terrains.
- HUNTING -
Midnight tomorrow (Tuesday, February 12, 2019) is the deadline to apply online for 2019 hunt permit-tags issued via draw for pronghorn and elk.
- INDUSTRY -
German Precision Optics, USA awarded Scott Mayer with its annual Writer of the Year Award on January 22 at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas. This award is presented each year to a writer that has supported GPO in his/her writing, educates the consumer reader base about shooting sports and supports our Second Amendment rights.

In 2018, Davidson’s expanded its list of product offerings with many new manufacturers. They are now offering select products from Streamlight, Bergara, HSM, Nosler, Ruger Knives by CRKT and many others.
To be held in Florida’s state capitol in Tallahassee, the event will focus on bringing NMMA's boating priorities of conservation, consumer protection, and infrastructure to decision makers.
Plano, the manufacturer of the most trusted storage solutions for anglers for over 65 years is partnering up with Spawn Ideas, the 2017, 2018 AdAge small agency of the year.
- LITIGATION -
Buckeye Firearms Foundation, in cooperation with Ohioans for Concealed Carry, has won a lawsuit against the City of Cincinnati over its “bump stock” ban. On Friday morning, February 8, 2019, Judge Ruehlman of Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas granted a Motion for Summary Judgment and shall issue a permanent injunction.

- ORGANIZATIONS -
The National Shooting Sports Foundation announced the launch of its “My NSSF” Mobile App.  The new app is available through the Apple Store and through Google Play. The download is free, and once installed, NSSF members can log in and access the NSSF Store, the association’s comprehensive industry research offerings and a wide array of resources relating to store security, and OSHA and ATF compliance.   
Charity Navigator has placed the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership in the top 8 percent of U.S. charities for its “strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency.”
The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) teamed up with Southwick Associatesto create the 2019 Economic Contributions of Recreational Fishing: U.S. Congressional Districts, which updates the 2016 version. This also includes a new series of one-page infographics, which clearly illustrate recreational fishing’s economic impact on all 435 Congressional districts and the 50 states.
- PASSINGS -
It is with great sadness the National Wildlife Refuge Association recognizes the passing of one of the greatest conservationists of our time. Congressman John Dingell, architect of some of the most important conservation laws of our nation.

During his 59-year tenure in the House of Representatives, Dingell was the longest serving member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission (MBCC) with 45 years of service.
- PHISHING SCAMS -
A phishing scam is targeting the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and it's contacts. If you have received an email asking for money of behalf of the Council, it is fraudulent and should be deleted immediately. 
- PROMOTIONS -
Crimson Trace announced that its popular Buy One/Get One offer, currently underway, will continue until February 28, 2019. Under this program, customers who purchase a new Crimson Trace laser sight (with specific exceptions) between January 1, 2019 and February 28, 2019, will be eligible to receive a free Crimson Trace laser sight -- the Rail Master CMR-201 universal red laser sight.
- STATES -
It’s free to fish, crab or clam in Oregon on Saturday and Sunday, February 16-17 of President’s Day Weekend.

Permits will be issued in a random drawing based on preference points earned; applicants with the most preference points will receive the greatest priority.
The Commission reappointed Curt Melcher of Molalla to another four-year term as ODFW Director at its meeting in Portland last week.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) was recognized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for offering the nation’s first paddlesports class that meets the national standard for ”On-Water Recreational Boating Skills – Human Propelled.”
Six events for kids and families are planned for this spring, with instruction and gear provided free.

The red tide organism, Karenia brevis, persists in Southwest Florida, but bloom concentrations (>100,000 cells per liter) were detected only offshore of Monroe County.
Pennsylvania's 2018 bear harvest came in at 3,153 bears, 11th-best all-time, but also the lowest bear harvest in the past 11 years.
- TELEVISION -
In this episode of The High Road, Keith and Matti Warren head to the Cowboy state of Wyoming with Blue Rock Outfitters for Matti’s first antelope. And literally, it’s a “Booner”. And Keith finally shares his secret recipe for cooking pronghorn.
 

For many entrepreneurs the idea of building their dream into a viable business is only one step in their career track. Their ultimate goal is a public company -a gargantuan entity, complete with deep pockets, teams of experts to throw at ideas once designated to the “later” section of your (single) work bench. A smoothly functioning machine with experts in virtually all areas of business, all dedicated to the corporate goal.

Hate to burst your bubble, but I’ve played on both fields, and I’ll take private enterprise anytime.

Granted, being a public company does open additional access to capital, but it also puts you into a position you might not have considered. The officers of a public corporation each have one job, but many bosses.

Every shareholder, to a certain extent, has certain “inalienable rights” - including the right to hector you endlessly when they disagree with any of your decisions- even ones that make them money.

On Friday (February 8, 2019) two of the industry’s major publicly traded companies, Sturm, Ruger & Co. (NYSE: RGR) and American Outdoor Brands Corporation (NYSE: AOBC) released what I’ve joking referred to as “required book reports” in response to shareholder demands that the company, in essence “do something” about gun violence.

On Friday, Ruger (above) and American Outdoor Brands Corporation (below) responded to shareholder resolutions with lengthy responses. Screenshots from Ruger and AOBC websites.

Both were forced into these responses by shareholder resolutions passed at annual stockholder meetings in 2018.

It’s important to clarify something about each of these resolutions: neither were passed by a majority of shareholders. They were passed by “majorities of voting shares” - and there’s a huge difference between the two.

The “majorities of voting shares” are, essentially, institution investors who hold huge chunks of each company’s shares…think BlackRock, Vanguard and other similarly-sized diversified investment groups.

These companies have investors who have entrusted them with management of significant amounts of money. In the case of teachers unions and other groups, it’s hundreds of millions of dollars.

Occasionally, that forces investment groups to take actions that seem to fly in the face of their primary fiduciary responsibility: to invest client dollars into the best opportunities possible.

This is one of those instances.

The Sisters of the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary of Marylhurst, Oregon, brought these shareholder resolutions to both companies. More accurately, it’s the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) a group of 300-plus religious investors who pushed the issue. The Sisters were only leaders of that vanguard.

They’d already gone to the leadership of Dick’s Sporting Goods (where they found they were, so to speak, “preaching to the choir”) and investment groups BlackRock and Vanguard.

They owned RGR and AOBC shares, qualifying them to propose their resolution to shareholders. Both companies we obligated to present it, despite stating their opposition.

Although neither Vanguard or BlackRock disclosed how they voted (although BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, is a preacher of “conscious capitalism’), a “majority of voting shares” was reached. And the resolution became something neither company could ignore- despite the fact the resolution was non-binding.

Public companies can’t ignore the wishes of shareholders, and “a majority of voting shares” had spoken.

"The proposal requires Ruger to prepare a report. That's it. A report,” Ruger CEO Chris Killoy said following the Ruger vote, “The company will follow through on its obligation to produce that report.”

"What the proposal does not, and cannot do, is to force us to change our business, which is lawful and constitutionally protected. 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.”

This is a very lengthy preamble, but it’s important to understand that neither of these companies leaped at the opportunity to assemble a lengthy study of “its activities related to gun safety measures and the mitigation of harm associated with gun products.”

When Killoy issued his statement, he made Ruger’s position quite clear.

American Outdoor Brands Corporation made their position equally clear with a statement they missed concurrently with their own Shareholders Report:

“Today’s report complies with a Resolution that was passed by a small percentage of our shareholders in September. Despite the fact that the Resolution was put forward by parties whose interests were not aligned with those of our customers, or those of our shareholders seeking true risk mitigation and value creation, the report represents our good faith effort and investment of company resources. Its contents demonstrate that our reputation with our customers for protecting their Second Amendment rights, and our ability to manufacture the high-quality firearms they want to purchase, are paramount to sustaining and growing our market share and stockholder value. We maintain our long-standing commitment to developing and manufacturing high-quality firearms that operate in a safe and reliable fashion, while encouraging their safe and lawful use.”

The reports don’t differ in the broadest sense: despite being put forth as shareholder concerns, the resolution passed at either company is, in essence, an attempt by anti-gun groups to influence how two companies run their businesses.

Ruger’s report directly addressed personal choice. Most, it says, who associate with Ruger choose to do so. Employees, the report says, choose to work at Ruger or not. “Investors,” they write, “are free to own our shares, or not.”

It’s a very nice way of saying the same thing I once told a viewer who’d made a point of telling me he didn’t like my new programming of “his favorite” network.

“Vote with your remote,” I told him, “if you don’t like our shows, go watch the ones you do. The ratings will decide if I’m right or not.”

Publicly traded companies can’t be that blunt. So they write “book reports”.

Both responses state some key facts that refute the assertion they need to “do something” about guns:

Today’s firearms are equipped with a wide variety of reliable safety features and devices. From included gun locks to built in devices like manual safeties, grip safeties, firing pin blocks, hammer blocks, trigger safeties and magazine disconnects to loaded chamber indicators and out-of-battery disconnects, firearms today are already equipped with a wide variety of devices to prevent accidents, whether mechanical or due to unauthorized handling.

Both companies are longtime participants in programs designed to prevent gun sales to disqualified individuals. The NSSF’s“Project ChildSafe” for consumers, the ATF’s “Operation Secure Store” for retailers and “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” for consumers, and the industry-supported “Own It? Respect it. Secure it.” awareness campaign for responsible gun ownership are designed to keep guns out of the hands of anyone but responsible owners. Both companies support mental health initiatives. For decades, both have participated in educational seminars and responsible shooting programs with the NRA, NSSF, and others.

On one point that seems to be a hot-button issue with “gun safety” proponents like the IICR, the two companies were in virtual lock step: smart gun technology simply does not exist.

Ruger’s report offers a simple explanation as to why anti-gun groups don’t appear to understand the inherent challenges of “smart guns”:

Proponents of “smart guns” often ask, “If my smart phone can lock for anyone other than me, why can’t a gun?” This question reflects a misunderstanding of how a conventional firearm operates and oversimplifies a complex issue. In fact, the private sector and federal government have been struggling for over two decades to determine whether modern technology can be integrated into firearms without sacrificing the reliability and durability that owners demand from them.

Today, the idea of smart guns is just that; an idea. Further, as businesses with fiduciary responsibilities to their shareholders, both companies clearly state an obvious business fact: even if the technology existed, there’s no guarantee there’s any consumer demand for it.

Both reports address the fact that making firearms comes with inherent risks, for both manufacturers and investors.

They address that risk in ways that speak to their individual corporate philosophies.

Ruger is a gun company, and looks as the inherent risks associated with firearms as something mitigated via good design, rigorous testing, and a willingness to address issues head-on.

AOBC, although it has that same view as core element of its overall corporate DNA, addresses mitigates some of that risk via diversification. That is further reflected in the rebranding of Smith & Wesson Holding Company into American Outdoor Brands Corporation and acquisition of a variety of companies making things other than guns.

Neither approach is wrong, But each reflects a decidedly different management philosophy.

In their rigorous responses to the IICR resolutions, both companies have gone to great lengths to be responsive to strident shareholders, even when stating fundamental facts the resolutions choose to ignore.

The firearms industry, despite the resolutions insistence that the industry needs more oversight isn’t lacking for regulation. In fact, gun manufacturing is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the United States.

Further, individual firearms ownership, although guaranteed under the Second Amendment, isn’t the come-one, come-all situation the resolution implies.

The perceived “epidemic” of gun violence is, in Ruger’s explanation, “exacerbated by misinformation disseminated by the media and opponents to the firearms industry”.

And, as Ruger’s report continues, that misinformation “has applied pressure on federal, state, and local legislatures to further regulate the sale and possession of firearms.”

But, as Ruger clearly states, “this is a risk we disclose in our Form 10-K.” AOBC does as well.

Lawful ownership of firearms, both point out, comes only after a process designed to prevent criminals and the unstable from possessing guns. Both reports advance the industry position that new laws aren’t needed, but laws already on the books should be enforced.

As Ruger’s report puts it, “We believe that the vast majority of stakeholders do not attribute the criminal misuse of a lawfully manufactured and sold firearm to its manufacturer, any more than they believe auto manufacturers are responsible for the criminal misuse of vehicles at the hands of drunk drivers.”

In other words, Ruger (nor AOBC- who addresses the anti-gun bias of the IICR in detail in its report) does not agree with the IICR’s “underlying premise” that law-abiding gun manufacturers are responsible for “gun violence” or that Ruger runs the risk of having their reputation “tarnished” by the criminal misuse of their products.

AOBC goes further, stating: “Most of the public, AOBC’s business partners, banks, customers, and end consumers understand that the manufacturer of a firearm is not responsible in any way for its illegal misuse. There is no connection between AOBC’s brand reputation and the criminal misuse of the firearms manufactured by the Company, and AOBC has not suffered financial or reputational harm from the criminal misuse of its firearms. AOBC’s initial media monitoring discussed earlier in this Report also supports this conclusion.”

In fact, both reports refute “reputational harm” implied by the shareholders by pointing out a simple fact: the strength of both businesses is anchored in their longstanding and unquestioned support of the Second Amendment. Trying to appease non-customers or anti-gun groups wouldn’t just be a waste of time; it would be damaging to the business.

Is there a message inside these reports for the hundreds of thousands of owners of Ruger and AOBC’s Smith & Wesson products?

Absolutely, but it’s a business fact, not some cloaked message of support for a strident group of “shareholders.”

If you are a publicly-traded company, you have some benefits that privately-held companies don’t, but they come with limitations and obligations to shareholders.

Fulfilling obligations to shareholders -even when they represent a tiny majority of overall shareholders even if they run counter to a company’s overall health - requires a considered response.

Both Ruger and American Outdoor Brands Corporation have offered those considered responses.

They’ve also taken this “opportunity” to state-in detail -their rejection of the positions put forth by those activist shareholders.

AOBC has gone so far as to issue “Principles for Responsible Engagement” -an accompanying document for “Shareholders of AOBC, including equity shareholders, who wish to have a dialogue with the company.”

It sets AOBC core principles, and those include stewardship of the Second Amendment, acceptance of the broad right of citizens to possess firearms as settled law, and a focus on the “manufacture and distribution of firearms that meet market needs and will not sacrifice shareholder value in pursuit of technologies or products that destroy shareholder value or serve only the purposes of advancing the agendas of third-parties who do not otherwise agree with these Principles.”

These “book reports” represent a perfect example of why I prefer private businesses to publicly owned ones. With nearly a half-century in the business world, I can assure you that my response as a private business owner would be shorter and considerably more “colorful” in its wording, but the take-away would be the same.

—Jim Shepherd


Editor’s Note:

Both reports are available on the company’s websites.

AOBC: http://ir.aob.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=90977&p=irol-investorHome under Featured Items “Shareholder Requested Report Feb. 8, 2019

RUGER: https://ruger.com/corporate/PDF/8K-2019-02-08.pdf.

OUTDOOR WIRE
Event Calendar

FEBRUARY 13-17
National Wild Turkey Federation 42nd Annual Convention & Sport Show

Gaylord Opryland Hotel 
Nashville, Tennessee
http://www.nwtf.org/convention

FEBRUARY 14-17
Western Hunting & Conservation Expo

Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City. Website: www.huntexpo.com

FEBRUARY 15-17
Mid-South Sports, RV and Boat Show

The 56th annual Mid-South Sports, RV and Boat Show will be held Feb. 15-17 at the Agricenter in East Memphis. The show has added RVs to its title this year (www.memphisboatshow.com or 901-867-2007).

FEBRUARY 20-24
Ducks in the Desert Continental Shoot

Clark County Shooting Complex, Las Vegas, Nevada
Info: 
 (661) 992-2941, email shoot@ducks.org or visit www.chshootresults.com

 
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