Omaha, Neb. — Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett answered questions on a wide range of topics at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Omaha on Saturday, including U.S.-China trade relations and the threat of data breaches to businesses.
But his answer to a question about doing business with gun owners drew the biggest reaction from the tens of thousands of shareholders.
“I don’t believe in imposing my political opinions on the activities of our businesses,” Buffett said, in response to a shareholder’s question read by CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin.
For example, “I don’t think we should put a question on the Geico policy form [that says]: ‘Are you a member of the NRA? And if you are, you’re just not good enough for us.’ Or something like that.”
After Buffett delivered his answer, the crowd at the CenturyLink Center erupted in massive applause.
The shareholder wanted to know if Buffett misspoke in February when he told CNBC that Berkshire shouldn’t avoid doing business with people who own guns. Back then, he said: “I don’t believe in imposing my views on 370,000 employees and a million shareholders. I’m not their nanny on that.”
Buffett is a board member of an organization called Everytown for Gun Safety, which looks to reduce gun violence through “common-sense reforms,” according to its website. Buffett also donated to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“When I do that, I’m speaking as a private citizen. I don’t think I’m speaking for Berkshire,” Buffett said Saturday. “At the parent-company level, we have never made a political contribution.”
However, not everyone was so supportive of Buffett’s response. “I don’t agree with that,” said Catherine Keane, a 67-year-old shareholder attending her first annual meeting. “I don’t think profit justifies endangering an innocent life.”
Another person in the crowd booed Buffett after he gave his answer.