Business leaders from some of the nation’s best-known companies sent a letter to Senate leaders urging an expansion of background checks to all firearm sales and stronger “red flag” laws. The letter, urging the Republican-controlled Senate to enact bills already introduced in the Democrat-led House of Representatives, is an unprecedented effort by the business community to enter the gun debate.
- The debate and the decision to sign, or not sign, are a case study in how chief executives must weigh their own views and the political risks to their businesses. As a CEO, would you sign the letter? What are your reasons either way?
- Walmart, the largest employer in the country, did not sign Thursday’s letter. But in its own letter, the retailer urged Congress to call for a debate over reauthorizing an assault weapons ban. Could Walmart do more to influence gun control legislation?
- What are the ethics and moral courage requirements for business leaders in addressing or ignoring gun violence?
- “Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable, and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety,” the heads of nearly 150 companies, including Levi Strauss, Twitter, and Uber, said in the letter.
- “I don’t think it’s a positive thing to see big corporations shifting their focus from their customers and actually doing what they were created to do into trying to become political players on divisive social issues,” said Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
- “Under the current laws, a federally licensed dealer must conduct a background check, but private sellers, people who are not licensed dealers, can sell guns without conducting a background check,” as UCLA law professor Adam Winkler told NPR last month.
Noting the country is in a public health crisis, the CEOs say new laws that would require background checks on all gun sales “are a common-sense solution with overwhelming public support and are a critical step toward stemming the gun violence epidemic in this country.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that a new law would need President Trump’s approval. The Senate leader’s remarks came two days after he said the White House is working on a proposal to respond to recent deadly shootings. He did not provide details.
After President Donald Trump appeared to respond to a groundswell of public support for tougher gun sale background checks following recent mass shootings, his position on new gun control measures seems to have softened after a discussion with NRA head Wayne LaPierre in mid-August.
Earlier this year, the House approved two pieces of gun legislation that would require background checks for all firearm sales – one requires three days and the other ten days before a gun purchaser can acquire a firearm.
“To a certain extent, these C.E.O.s are putting their businesses on the line here, given how politically charged this is,” said Chip Bergh, chief executive of Levi Strauss, a company whose denim jeans have long been a symbol of America. Mr. Bergh spent several days trying to persuade his peers to join him and gun control advocates like Everytown, which is funded in part by Michael Bloomberg.
“Business leaders are not afraid to get engaged now,” he added. “C.E.O.s are wired to take action on things that are going to impact their business and gun violence is impacting everybody’s business now.”