WASHINGTON — The top financial administrator of a Catholic university in Miami has resigned rather than step down from the board of the parent company of a manufacturer of weapons, including semiautomatic rifles such as the AR-15, which was recently used in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
As chief financial officer at Miami’s St. Thomas University, Anita Britt had been facing backlash for being on the board of American Outdoor Brands Corp., parent company of weapons maker Smith & Wesson, which in late 2016, changed its corporate name from Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. to American Outdoor Brands.
She was hired as CFO of the university in December but resigned March 13 after officials from the school told her to resign from the company’s board if she wanted to keep her position at the Catholic institution, according to various news reports. She had accepted the board position after being hired at St. Thomas.
The Miami Herald reported March 13 that Msgr. Franklyn M. Casale, president of the university, said he “came to the conclusion that St. Thomas was being associated with gun violence and that was not an image I thought was good for the university.”
Community members circulated a petition asking her to resign the board position after the Feb. 14 mass shooting that left 17 dead.
Initially, university leaders said they saw no conflict, but the Miami Herald said public reaction, as well as faculty reaction, led Msgr. Casale to ask Britt to resign her board position if she wanted to stay at St. Thomas.
For years, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has pushed for stricter gun control and urged lawmakers to discuss solutions to gun violence.