220 CEOs issued an emotional call for US gun control

Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh.
Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh.
Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson
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On Thursday (June 9), CEOs of 220 companies released a letter they plan to send to members of the US senate calling on them to address America’s “gun violence epidemic.”

The letter, which was first published by Axios, is signed by the CEOs of hundreds of well-known companies including Unilever, Bain Capital, Bumble, and Levi Strauss & Co, which according to Axios was the petition’s organizer. The CEOs of some major sports teams, including the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco Giants, also signed. Some of these companies are headquartered in other countries, but all have operations in the US.

The signatories don’t call for any specific policies, but do cite stark statistics on US gun violence: One hundred and ten people are shot and killed in the US every day, and a further 200 shot and wounded, they note. Guns are now the leading cause of death among children and teens.

“Taken together, the gun violence epidemic represents a public health crisis that continues to devastate communities—especially Black and Brown communities—and harm our national economy,” the letter says. “All of this points to a clear need for action: the Senate must take urgent action to pass bold gun safety legislation as soon as possible in order to avoid more death and injury.”

In 2019, a similar letter signed by 145 CEOs failed to bring about substantial change. That letter called for more specific laws, including an update to the background checks conducted before weapons are sold in all US states, and widespread “red flag” laws that allow courts to seize guns from anyone thought to be an immediate danger to themselves or others, which currently exist in about 12 states.

Some of the former signatories didn’t sign this time, while others joined the roster.

In recent years, CEO activism has seen company heads become more vocal on social and environmental issues. Some company heads have faced internal pressure from employees over the issue of gun control, which may have pushed CEOs to take action. Earlier this month, 4,000 Salesforce employees wrote an open letter asking the company to drop the National Rifle Association as a customer. (Salesforce was not a signatory on today’s letter.)

It remains to be seen whether urging from business leaders will affect the course of a sweeping gun control bill that passed the US House of Representatives this week, but was previously seen as unlikely to get through the senate because of opposition from Republicans.

The letter notes how much money is lost to gun violence every year—$280 billion a year—but its emotional thrust is arguably as powerful.

“Each death means another empty chair at the dinner table, another empty seat in the church pew or the classroom, another worker missing on the assembly line,” it reads.