Less than two weeks after a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida left 17 people dead, one of the most popular gun manufacturers in the country is courting Boy Scouts in order to cultivate the next generation of gun owners.
Vista Outdoor manufactures a range of outdoor sports and recreation gear, including everything from water bottles to grills. The company also owns several firearms and ammunition brands, including Savage Arms, a line of rifles and shotguns. Savage Arms boasts on its website that “to hold one of our firearms in your hands is to know what winning feels like.”
Vista Outdoor pitched its Savage Arms weapons in an investors meeting in May of 2017, according to SEC filings. In the slideshow presentation, the company highlighted its goal of cultivating “consumers for life.” Vista Outdoor plans to achieve this goal by funding youth programs like the Boy Scouts of America, Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation, and National 4-H Shooting Programs.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has taken a similar approach: the Boy Scouts of America has a youth ambassador program in partnership with the NRA in which children ages 16 to 21 can participate in annual NRA meetings and serve as advisers on youth shooting sports topics.
“For more than a century, the BSA has been a leader in conservation,” a spokesperson for Boy Scouts of America told ThinkProgress in a statement. “Vista Outdoor is an official conservation partner of the Boy Scouts of America, and we share a commitment to outdoor recreation and responsible environmental stewardship – tenets of our organization for more than 100 years.”
Vista Outdoors did not immediately respond to requests to comment.
According to Mother Jones, Savage Arms is America’s largest maker of bolt-action rifles, selling an estimated 639,000 on the U.S. market in 2014 and producing a global revenue of roughly $185 million.
Vista Outdoor weapons have been involved in some of the country’s most dangerous mass shootings. Adam Lanza used a .22-caliber Savage bolt action rifle to fatally shoot his mother before killing 27 young children and faculty at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Alleged Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz previously posted photos of his firearm collection on social media with the caption “arsenal.” One of the weapons featured was a Savage Axis bolt-action rifle.
In the days following the Parkland shooting, Vista Outdoor shares fell by 7 percent, a stark contrast to what the company experienced after Sandy Hook. According to the same Mother Jones report, after Sandy Hook, Savage ran around-the-clock shifts to keep up with the demand; Vista Outdoor profits similarly rose from $10 million to $64 million in 2013.
Investment firm BlackRock, the largest shareholder in a number of weapons manufacturers including Sturm Ruger and American Outdoor Brands, is the second-largest shareholder in Vista Outdoor. On Sunday night, the firm emailed outside fund managers, requesting information about “any ownership or lending” of or to “gun manufacturers or gun sellers,” according to sources with knowledge of the exchange.
“We believe we have next to no direct exposure to the firearms industry, but it’s not surprising that we would want to confirm,” a BlackRock spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal.
Corporations and firms have faced increased pressure in recent weeks for their close financial relationship with the NRA. A ThinkProgress report found 31 companies that offered some kind of discount for NRA members. All but eight, including FedEx, have severed their ties as of Monday.