Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner today announced that he filed a shareholder proposal with Mastercard (NYSE: MA) which presses the board to act on the company's involvement with the sale and purchase of firearm kits, components, and/or accessories used to assemble undetectable and untraceable firearms known as "ghost guns." The shareholder proposal was co-filed by Connecticut Treasurer Shawn Wooden, Mercy Investment Services, Congrégation des Soeurs des Saints Noms de Jésus et de Marie, Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of The Episcopal Church, Trinity Health, and Northwest Women Religious Investment Trust.
Treasurer Magaziner frequently uses the influence of the state's $10.3 billion pension fund to compel companies to adopt more responsible corporate practices on climate change, workers' rights, corporate diversity, and other key issues.
Investors have previously engaged with Mastercard over the company's role in facilitating the purchase of untraceable ghost guns. Mastercard has, to date, declined to adopt policies that would limit the number of untraceable weapons that are purchased using its cards or electronic payment services.
"There is a growing epidemic of gun violence," said General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. "Sellers of 'ghost gun' kits advertise that their products are meant to be built into operable firearms with no serial number, records, or background check. Mastercard is profiting from the sale of ghost guns and supporting the sellers of untraceable firearms. The ability for criminals to obtain untraceable firearms over the internet contributes to the tragedy of gun violence in Rhode Island and Mastercard's inaction puts our communities at risk."
Ghost guns are routinely seized from individuals who are prohibited by law from possessing firearms. When made for personal use, ghost guns, are not required to have a serial number, making it difficult for law enforcement to determine where, by whom, or when they were manufactured, and to whom they were sold or otherwise distributed.
"Our office administers Rhode Island's Crime Victim Compensation Program. Working directly with victims of violent crime, we are constantly reminded of the importance of reducing the number of illegal firearms in our state," added Treasurer Magaziner.
Despite Rhode Island passing legislation banning undetectable and untraceable firearms in June 2020, multiple ghost guns have been recovered by local law enforcement, including from the scene of a gang-related shooting that wounded nine people on Carolina Avenue in Providence in May 2021.
From January 1, 2016, through December 31, 2020, there were approximately 23,906 suspected ghost guns reported to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) as having been recovered by law enforcement from crime scenes, including 325 homicides or attempted homicides, which includes students who were killed during mass school shootings.
Treasurer Magaziner has long been an advocate for common-sense gun safety legislation, testifying in favor of gun safety legislation every year he has been in office. Under Treasurer Magaziner's leadership, Rhode Island was the fourth state in the country to divest its pension fund from companies that manufacture assault-style weapons for civilian use in January 2020.
"Mastercard is facilitating payment for the purchase of untraceable weapons by people who are legally prohibited from possessing a firearm," said Judy Byron, OP, Director, Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment. "Beyond the risk to our communities, this practice presents a legal and reputational risk to Mastercard and its shareholders."
"Untraceable firearms are a nightmare, not only for communities, but for law enforcement who are left with fewer avenues to track down people who use these weapons illegally. Since these products are unregulated, they are highly suspect, therefore any company that facilitates these transactions does so at high risk legally and reputationally. We urge Mastercard to rethink facilitating purchases that are sure to put guns in the hands of felons, domestic abusers, and gun traffickers" – Lydia Kuykendal, Director of Shareholder Advocacy, Mercy Investment Services, Inc.
"Ghost guns are one of the fastest-growing gun safety threats that our state faces, and we must do everything we can to immediately address it. Companies like Mastercard have the responsibility to limit the harm that results from purchases made using their services, especially when individuals with dangerous histories can use them to acquire these do-it-yourself, untraceable weapons with no background check and no questions asked. We are pleased to see Treasurer Magaziner stand with gun safety advocates across our state and file this important request to protect our communities." – Jenn Boylan, Volunteer, Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action.
"We are grateful to Treasurer Magaziner for asking Mastercard to evaluate the risks that ghost gun companies pose to its business, in light of the tremendous threat they pose to public safety. We hope that Mastercard will take this opportunity for the sake of its shareholders and the public." – Adam Skaggs, Chief Counsel + Policy Director, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
"As the threat of ghost guns grows, so must the urgency and ingenuity of our efforts to combat it. Companies like Mastercard, whose products can be used by people with dangerous histories to purchase these deadly, untraceable weapons, must do all they can to protect the public. We thank Treasurer Magaziner for urging Mastercard to recognize its role in curbing dangerous ghost guns." – Nick Suplina, Senior Vice President of Law & Policy, Everytown for Gun Safety.
"Rhode Island has made great strides in recent years toward banning ghost guns as a way of preventing gun violence. These guns are highly dangerous and illegal as they bypass the safety measures in place to safeguard the public. The Police Chiefs of Rhode Island support any measure that makes it more difficult to design, create or obtain these weapons. We applaud the Office of Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner for bringing this issue to light in the corporate arena that most people wouldn't expect to have an impact and hope that these common-sense gun control measures are successful so that Rhode Island can serve as a model for other states who may be looking to enact similar protocols." – Sidney Wordell, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs' Association.