145 CEOs sent Congress a letter demanding action on gun control

Recent polls have found that Americans across party lines are in favor of stricter gun laws. | Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Executives from Dick’s Sporting Goods, Reddit, Twitter, and Uber have signed the letter.

The chief executives of major US companies sent Senate leaders a letter on Thursday, urging Congress to expand background checks on all gun sales and issue stronger “red flag” laws. The letter, first shared by the New York Times, is backed by 145 CEOs of well-known retailers, technology companies, and financial institutions, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Levi Strauss, Reddit, Twitter, and Uber.

The move demonstrates how top corporate leaders are taking a united stance toward gun violence in the wake of recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Gun violence is “a public health crisis that demands urgent action,” the executives wrote in the letter, adding that they have a responsibility and obligation to stand up for the safety of their employees, customers, and people across the country.

“Gun violence in America is not inevitable; it’s preventable,” they continued. “There are steps Congress can, and must, take to prevent and reduce gun violence.”

Recent polls show that Americans across party lines support initiatives that could curb gun violence: A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll shows bipartisan support — even among a majority of gun owners — for increased funding for mental health screenings and treatment, universal background checks, red flag laws, and requiring gun licenses. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll also showed similar results, with 86 percent of Americans supporting extreme risk “red flag” laws that allow guns to be taken from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, told NPR that “the congressional crowd is very much out of step with where public opinion is on [gun control].” In the Thursday letter sent to Congress, executives maintained that their requests are in line with public opinion: “These proposals are common-sense, bipartisan and widely supported by the American public.”

However, companies are aware of the potential for backlash, Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh told the New York Times. “This has been spun by the N.R.A. as we’re trying to repeal the Second Amendment,” Bergh said. “Nothing is further from the truth.”

When Dick’s Sporting Goods decided to stop selling assault-style weapons and raise the gun-purchasing age to 21 last year, the retailer was threatened by customer boycotts online and reported slow sales. But it’s recently seen strong earnings — which suggests that brief spat of outrage had no long-lasting impact on the company, according to the Washington Post.

While Congress is deadlocked between the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-held House of Representatives (which has passed a universal background checks bill and introduced legislation on an assault weapons ban), corporate actions appear to be more effective — or at the very least proactive — in reducing the possibility of gun violence. In today’s highly politicized environment, brands have become markedly more explicit about their views.

Last week, Walmart announced it will reduce gun sales in stores nationwide: The retailer will stop selling short-barrel rifle ammunition, handgun ammunition, and handguns in Alaska (the last state where Walmart has them available). It will also ask customers to stop openly carrying guns in its stores as well as at Sam’s Club, even in states where open carry is legal. Retailers like Walgreens, CVS, and Kroger also joined Walmart, asking shoppers to not openly carry firearms in stores.

Gun violence has emerged as one of the nation’s most pressing political issues, according to public opinion. And while lawmakers can’t seem to come to a consensus, it seems as if some corporate leaders have: It is time for the Senate to take action.

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