More than 220 business leaders today sent a cosigned letter addressed to the U.S. Senate urging the congressional body to pass long-overdue gun safety legislation.
The group of signatories, CEOs for Gun Safety, representing 400,000 employees across all 50 states, and from large companies including Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s, Lyft, Eventbrite, DoorDash, J.Crew, Yelp, Northwell Health, Bain Capital, Oatly, Patagonia, Bumble, and Condé Nast, as well as a long list of smaller companies.
They released the letter in partnership with Everytown, one of the country’s largest gun safety advocacy groups, emphasizing the importance of involving the business world. “There’s really no better barometer of public opinion than the business community,” says John Feinblatt, Everytown’s president. “It’s their job to keep in sync with where the public stands. More so than any poll, it is an indication of what the public wants.”
The letter details examples of the gun violence epidemic, mentioning not only the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, but also “14 additional mass shootings that took place in just the ten days between the two.”
Statistically, Uvalde wasn’t a gun violence anomaly in the United States; as of June 7, there had been 650 shooting incidents, resulting in 730 deaths, in the two weeks since the school shooting. The letter says that mass shootings are simply “the tip of the iceberg,” noting that 110 people are shot and killed every day in America. It also mentions that gun violence is now the leading cause of death of children in the U.S.
Mass shootings are bad business
The letter also dedicates a section to the economic impact of gun violence, pointing to Everytown research that suggests gun violence costs taxpayers, employers, and communities $280 billion a year.
“Communities that experience gun violence struggle to attract investment, create jobs, and see economic growth,” it reads. Feinblatt says this argument is crucial. “These people are used to judging things by the bottom line,” he says. “And there’s no question when you look at the costs of gun violence in this country, it’s taking a huge bite out of our economy.”
Levi Strauss & Co. has led the charge on the letter. “The gun violence epidemic in this country is real, and it is getting worse,” said Kelly McGinnis, the company’s SVP and chief communications officer, via email. “We believe that we cannot stay on the sidelines on an issue that threatens the fabric of communities where we live and work, and that the business community has to make its voice heard on this issue.”
Levi’s also led the way in September 2019, the last time a CEOs for Gun Safety letter went to the Senate, following mass shootings that summer at a bar in Dayton, Ohio, and at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Other signatories, like Dick’s Sporting Goods, have been outspoken about gun violence for a long time. Dick’s started pulling semiautomatic weapons from its shelves and destroying them following the Parkland massacre in 2018.
Still, none of these actions led to any federal gun reform legislation.
That time, 145 company leaders signed the letter, at least 75 fewer than this time. “I think more of the business community now realizes that this impacts their people and their companies,” McGinnis said. Feinblatt adds: “The business community, like the American public in general, is impatient. They want bold action, and they want the Senate to do their job.”
The letter asks for “bold legislation,” though doesn’t name specific policies. Some companies have separately done so. The Philadelphia Eagles, one of the signatories, shared a statement from chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie that does contain policy proposals. “Enough is enough! Assault weapons loaded with high-capacity magazines are a clear threat to public safety and should be banned. Additionally, a mandatory universal background check could have a significant impact on mass shootings.”
Yesterday, the House passed an array of individual gun control bills, with support from just a handful of Republicans. They include raising the age for assault weapons from 18 to 21; limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds; bolstering safe storage of guns in homes; implementing background checks for ghost guns; and banning bump stocks.
The vote took place after the House Oversight Committee held hearings on gun violence, including from the Uvalde community. Among the testifiers were the parents of Lexi Rubio, who was killed in the massacre; a schoolgirl who had covered herself in her classmates’ blood to survive; and a Uvalde doctor who described how some of the children were “pulverized” and “decapitated” by the AR-15 the gunman used.
But with 60 votes needed, and most Republicans unlikely to budge, passage in the Senate seems unlikely. Still, the CEOs are entreating the legislators to do the right thing. “Our families, our communities, and our places of business are depending on you,” the letter reads.