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College administrator resigns rather than cut ties with assault rifle manufacturer

The chief financial and administrative officer at St. Thomas University is resigning after coming under heavy criticism for joining the board of directors for American Outdoor Brands, manufacturer of the Smith and Wesson AR-15 used in the Parkland, Florida mass shooting.

Anita Britt joined the board of directors just days before Nikolas Cruz used a S&W AR-15 to open fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17 students and staff. According to corporate filings, she earns more than $100,000 annually in cash and stock from sitting on the board.

On Monday, the faculty at St. Thomas — a small Catholic college in Miami Gardens, Florida — passed a motion disagreeing with St Thomas’ president, Rev. Monsignor Franklyn Casale, who had previously said there was not a conflict of interest between Britt’s role as a university administrator and her position on the board of American Outdoor Brands.

As a result, Britt was given a choice between the two roles.

“It has become clear that many of the sensible and reasonable solutions to this gun epidemic, which have been discussed previously, were becoming less and less clear,” Casale said in a statement to the Miami Herald. “Accordingly, yesterday I advised Ms. Britt that she needed to make a choice of either resigning her role on American Outdoor Brands, or her role as CFO at St. Thomas University, but that she could not continue on both. Ms. Britt informed me this afternoon that she has decided to resign her position at St. Thomas University.”

St. Thomas had been facing outside pressure for Britt to resign. In wake of the Parkland shooting, a petition had begun to circulate calling for Britt to resign and “end [St. Thomas’] association with a company that profits from making and selling the AR-15 style rifles used in numerous school shootings and mass shootings across America.”

The petition was originally started by Praveen Kathpal, a father in Alexandria, Virginia who wanted to do something about gun violence in wake of the Parkland shooting.

“I realized that some of the most recent additions came from a very mainstream business background,” Kathpal told ThinkProgress, speaking about American Outdoor Brands’ board. “If people from the mainstream business community don’t want this association, realize there’s a reputational risk, the pool they’re drawing from would be greatly diminished.”

In the weeks since the Parkland shooting, there has been an intense spotlight on corporations who have been actively supporting the National Rifle Association (NRA). As ThinkProgress has documented, a number of corporations have made membership more enticing by offering discounts and savings. However, after media attention and pressure from survivors  of the Parkland shooting, 25 out of the 32 companies have publicly disavowed the NRA, and have stopped their corporate sponsorships with them. Banks who are financing the assault weapons industry have also begun cutting ties.

Meanwhile, in another small sign of progress, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), a longtime NRA suppporter, signed a bill enacting a slew of new gun control measures last Friday. It raises the minimum age for buying a rifle from 18 to 21, introduces a three-day waiting period for all gun purchases and bans bump stocks, which raise the rate of fire on semi-automatic weapons. The NRA however announced on the same day that it was suing the state, calling the law unconstitutional.

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