Westporter plans protest on Fairfield-based gun manufacturer
WESTPORT — You don’t have to go to Washington, D.C., New York City or Hartford to protest gun violence.
On the same day as the March for Our Lives protest in major cities and state capitals, Westport resident Greg Kraut has called on area residents to gather Saturday outside the headquarters of Sturm, Ruger & Co., a Fairfield-based gun manufacturer.
“Sturm, Ruger, which recently sold more ARs than any other gun company, is located less than a mile from the Westport border,” said Kraut, a member of the Representative Town Meeting from District 5.
The half-hour protest, set to begin at 11 a.m., aims to honor the lives of those lost to gun violence, educate area residents on Sturm, Ruger’s guns, and encourage attendees to sign a letter that will go to investors and vendors, urging them to enforce socially responsible investing and divest from Sturm, Ruger.
“Everything starts with money. The way you get to the source of the company’s money is through institutional investors,” Kraut said.
If investors, such as Vanguard and BlackRock, divest from Sturm until the company ceases production of assault-style rifles and activists convince companies to stop selling them, as Dick’s Sporting Goods has already done, then Sturm will be hit on both the supply and demand sides, Kraut explained. Politicians are more inclined to act if business trends change in the direction of a given policy, Kraut said, citing the divestment movement in South Africa that preceded the end of apartheid in that country in the early ’90s.
Kraut, Saturday’s sole organizer, said he hopes the protest will help reinstate the ban on high-capacity magazines and assault rifles that lawmakers passed in 1994, but which lawmakers let expire amid pressure from the National Rifle Association a decade later. The NRA is especially against a ban on the AR-15, Kraut said, because the weapon is many gun companies’ “golden goose,” boosting their sales, especially in recent weeks since the shooting in Parkland, Fla., and allowing gun manufacturers to survive amid declining sales for other types of guns.
“I’m not against all guns, but I am against this one specific gun — the assault weapon. The AR-15 was built for military, not civilian use,” Kraut said.
The weapon of choice in recent mass shootings — including at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and the Las Vegas music festival — AR-15-style rifles, Kraut said, can kill dozens of people in seconds.
According to Kraut, company co-founder William Ruger Sr. didn’t think AR-15-style rifles should be used by civilians and told Tom Brokaw in a 1992 interview, “No honest man needs more than 10 rounds in any gun. ... I never meant for simple civilians to have my 20- or 30-round mags or my folding stock.”
As for the current leadership of the company, they have offered no roadblocks to Kraut’s protest on Saturday.
Fairfield police said Kraut and the group assembling outside the Sturm, Ruger headquarters at 1 Lacey Place in Fairfield’s Southport section didn’t need permits for the gathering because it’s on private property and Sturm, Ruger agreed to let the group use a portion of the headquarters for the gathering. Police officers will be on hand at the property at the time of the gathering.
“The goal of the police department is to ensure the safety and security of the Sturm, Ruger employees and its property while protecting the First Amendment right to free speech and peaceful assembly of those attending,” Fairfield police Lt. Robert Kalamaras said.
Sturm, Ruger did not respond to calls for comment on the protest.
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