Desperately Seeking Ruger

Reprinted with permission of A.B.A.T.E. of South Dakota, Oct. 1995 Issue (compiled in part from Activist Review, a publication of AMA)
Bill Ruger, where are you?

We're thinking about organizing a search party to locate the head of Sturm, Ruger and Company. We know he must be lost, because we were promised he would meet with us several weeks ago, and since then we've been unable to reach him by phone or by mail.

Ruger became a household name among AMA members when his gun manufacturing company started discriminating against its motorcycle-riding employees last year. No employee would be covered for injuries resulting from a motorcycle accident, the company decreed, unless the employee was wearing a helmet and eye protection at the time of the crash. This, in spite of the fact that New Hampshire, Arizona and Connecticut, the three states where Ruger is based, don't have helmet laws covering adult motorcyclists.

Of course, car-driving Ruger employees aren't facing similar restrictions. They can drive without wearing seat belts and still qualify for health-care coverage. They can even do something illegally irresponsible like drinking and driving without losing their health insurance. Only motorcyclists have been singled out.

That policy drove a wedge between Ruger and many motorcyclists. And now, company President Bill Ruger, Jr., himself a motorcyclists, is allowing the situation to deterioate even further. After we were given assurances that he would sit down with us to discuss our concerns face-to-face, Ruger apparently has decided to stonewall us. All of the AMA's attempts to contact him and set up a meeting have gotten no response.

The promise of a face-to-face meeting seemed to be a real breakthrough in this controversy, which has now lasted a full year. After we reported what was going on at Ruger last year, a large number of AMA members who are also gun owners wrote to say that they would not purchase Ruger weapons until the company reinstates health-care benefits for all motorcyclists. Many of them noted that it seemed particularly strange for a gun manufacturer to discriminate against employees' lifestyle choices on the basis of perceived risk. Some even sent their Ruger guns back to the company to protest.

Early this year, the issue entered a new phase when the Riding Ruger campaign was started by a group of activist motorcyclists, including AMA Trustee Rick Gray. The idea was to encourage motorcyclists to buy shares of Ruger stock and then protest this policy at the company's annual stockholder's meeting in late April.

Rober Rasor, AMA vice president of government relations, and Gray both attended the stockholder's meeting to voice our concerns about the company policy. Shortly before the start of the meeting, they approached Stephen Sanetti, vice president and general counsel of Ruger. Sanetti said Ruger was willing to meet with Rasor in the near future to discuss the health-insurance issue. During the meeting Rasor publically thanked Ruger for his commitment to discuss the issue.

On May 8, Rasor called Sanetti and proposed a meeting date during the week of June 5. Sanetti said he would try to firm up a date at Ruger's convenience during that week. Rasor followed up his phone call with a letter to Sanetti on May 15.

Sanetti responded in a letter dated May 30, stating, "I immediately passed your request on to William B. Ruger, Jr. on May 8. He indicated he would get back to you regarding dates. To expedite this, please contact William B. Ruger Jr. directly. Many thanks for your courtesies and cooperation."

Since then, Raser has attempted to do exactly what Sanetti suggested. He called Ruger on June 5, 6 and 7. Each time, the company president was unavailable. So Raser wrote Ruger a letter on the 9th and waited for a response. On the 22nd Raser called Ruger again.

As this story is being written, the date is mid-July, more than a month after the meeting was supposed to be held. So far, Ruger has failed to respond with either a telephone call or letter. And the "courtesies and cooperation" Sanetti noted in his letter to us are starting to wear thin.

"We have conducted our business with Sturm, Ruger and Company in a non-confrontational manner," says Rasor. "That approach appears to have gotten us a string of promises, but no action whatsoever. It is now time to rethink our tactics."

"The Riding Ruger campaign," Rasor adds, "is already preparing for the 1996 shareholders meeting. While we maintained a low profile at the last meeting, we may have to take a more active stance to make certain that our concerns are addressed."

What can you do? The first step is to buy even a single share of Ruger stock, which is currently trading on the New York Stock Exchange for approximatelyy $30. It is important that your name appears as the stockholder of record. This will ensure that you can assign your voting rights to another motorcyclists if you are unable to attend the next shareholders meeting.

Then, write a letter to William B. Ruger Jr., president, Sturm, Ruger and Company, Lacey Place, Southport, CT 06490. Tell him that as a stockholder, you're concerned about the direction his company is taking. And add that you're disappointed at his failure to live up to the commitment he made to meet with the AMA.

Next, contact the AMA's Government Relations Department at 614-891-2425, or write to the department at 33 Collegeview Road, Westerville, OH 43081-1484. We are taking several steps now to prepare for next year's company meeting, and will use your letters to build an activist mailing list of AMA members who are Ruger's stockholders.

"Our approach to the 1996 meeting," promises Rasor, "will have a decidedly different tone than the last one. We want Ruger to know there are too many of us to ignore."

UPDATE - June 19, 1998

RIDING RUGER PAYS OFF The firearm manufacturer Sturm Ruger & Company has changed their policy on motorcyclists health-care coverage and will no longer require its motorcycle riding employees to wear helmets in order to be covered under the company's insurance policy.

In 1995, the AMA instituted a program called “Riding Ruger” intended to persuade the company to reevaluate its health insurance restrictions. The cornerstone of “Riding Ruger” was a call for all interested motorcyclists to purchase shares of Sturm, Ruger stock, then attend the annual stockholder meetings to challenge the company’s discriminatory policy. AMA representatives have attended the past four stockholder meetings to object to Ruger’s unfair policy.

Simultaneously, a letter-writing campaign was mounted, and individuals, clubs and entire police departments pledged not to purchase Ruger firearms until motorcyclists were treated like other employees. Motorcyclists pointed out, among other things, that the 3 states where Ruger maintains offices do not require adult motorcyclists to wear helmets; that the company’s requirement for its motorcycling employees to wear helmets interferes in these employees rights to engage in legal activities while away from the workplace; and that the company has no similar policy regarding seatbelt use for motorists.
American Motorcyclist Association (AMA)

nhmro.gif (3435 bytes)NHMRO Press Release

May 26, 1998

Sturm Ruger & Company Inc. changed its policy on Motorcyclists coverage regarding the wearing of helmets on May 4, 1998. It no longer will require its employees to wear helmets in order to be covered under the companies insurance policy.

In a phone conversation with Mr. Bill Ruger, Jr., President of the company, Mr. Ruger explained that after four years of looking at the company policy they decided to make several changes on the types of activities covered.  Mr. Ruger further explained that "our experience has indicated that the cost was not significant and that the restrictions were no longer necessary." Mr. Ruger also expressed his thoughts on helmet laws in general, he believes that the legislature should not enact helmet laws and that individuals should be responsible for their own safety and use reasonable care and exercise caution when riding. Mr. Ruger also commented on motorcycle organizations, he thought that they should promote rider safety and the use of safety equipment, including helmets.

NHMRO believes that Mr. Ruger came to the correct decision on its policy changes, reaffirming the position we have held for many years. That motorcyclists are no more a burden to the system than any other segment of society. NHMRO appreciates the fact that Ruger has taken an objective look at this issue and we applaud their willingness to adjust the company policy on this issue. We would hope that other companies would follow Ruger's example and use this as a model for setting policy in the future.

The New Hampshire Motorcyclists' Rights Organization was founded in 1975 and supports motorcycle safety through education rather than legislation. It was a major player in the creation of New Hampshire's nationally recognized motorcycle rider education courses.

Additional information on NHMRO may be obtained on our web site at: http://www.NHMRO.org/ or by calling 603-627-3528.

Copyright 1998, The New Hampshire Motorcyclists' Rights Organization.

 

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