145 CEOs Urge Senate To Act On Gun Violence | KERA News

145 CEOs Urge Senate To Act On Gun Violence

Sep 12, 2019
Originally published on September 20, 2019 12:28 pm

The chief executives of many prominent U.S. companies sent a letter to U.S. senators on Thursday urging them to pass new federal gun control laws.

“Gun violence in America is not inevitable; it’s preventable,” the letter from 145 CEOs reads. “There are steps Congress can, and must, take to prevent and reduce gun violence.”

Addressed to members of the Senate, the letter is signed by executives from a wide range of companies, from Airbnb and Twitter to Bain Capital, Levi Strauss & Co. and Royal Caribbean Cruises.

The CEOs urge the Senate to pass bills requiring background checks on all gun sales and supporting Extreme Risk Protection Order laws, also known as “red flag” laws. Public polling shows wide support for Extreme Risk laws, including among gun owners.

CEOs Add Their Names

Prerna Gupta, CEO of social media app Hooked, called signing the letter a “no-brainer.”

“You always think twice when you’re putting your name on something, but for gun laws, it’s such an obvious thing that we should be doing,” Gupta said. “It’s mind-blowing to me that this is considered controversial, I don’t think it should be.”

Gupta said she received the letter last week and though she saw many CEOs signing the letter, she did not feel pressured or forced to take a stance on the issue.

“This just feels like one really small thing that I can do,” Gupta said.

The Cost Of Making A Political Statement

Craig Barkacs, a professor of business law at the University of San Diego, says the executives likely expect to receive little pushback since polls show that most Americans are supportive of these laws. And because so many CEOs signed the letter together, there is little risk that one company will be singled out.

“Because there is such a large number speaking out and because there’s such a high percentage of support, I think there is very little risk in terms of backlash,” Barkacs said.

Barkacs believes that companies are more willing to wade into political waters because data shows customers are more likely to respond positively.

“Companies now have the ability to get a sense of what the public is thinking, who their demographic is, listening to what they’re saying,” Barkacs said. “And they can actually make a statistical calculations as to how a message is likely to be received.”

He says companies getting involved in political movements is an emerging trend, but it is unclear how much of an effect it will have on legislation.

In the wake of a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Walmart wrote its own letter to Congress suggesting a debate on a ban on so-called “assault weapons” and announcing the company would no longer sell certain ammunition. Walmart, grocery chain Kroger and other companies have also publicly asked customers not to carry firearms openly in their stores, though the companies have stopped short of banning all guns.

Where Things Stand In Congress

In February, the Democratically controlled U.S. House passed a bill expanding background checks to all gun sales, including those among private sellers. The Senate, controlled by Republicans, has yet to take it up.

The House is also expected to pass a bill providing incentives and support for state-level Extreme Risk laws. The House Judiciary Committee discussed the bill, one of several gun-related measures it is debating, earlier this week.

As pressure to take up gun regulations swirls around Washington — from Democrats, public polling showing wide support for Extreme Risk laws and now some business leaders — the biggest unknown remains President Donald Trump.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has said that he does not plan to present a gun bill that does not have the clear backing of the president. And the president has yet to make his views clear.

Correction 9/16/2019 2:23 p.m.: This story has been updated to correct Craig Barkacs’ first name.

Guns & America’s Jeremy Bernfeld contributed to this story.

Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.

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