Corporate America quiet as gun violence spikes
Corporate America – A mass shooting at a high school in Florida shook the United States in 2018.
The tragedy spurred corporate America to tighten gun-control measures.
Dick’s Sporting Goods, for example, has discontinued the sale of semi-automatic, assault-style guns in its stores.
Citigroup imposed limits on corporate clients’ ability to purchase firearms.
In 2022, major shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio caused Walmart to suspend sales of handgun ammo.
Yet, corporate America’s gun-control policies have altered.
With the recent Nashville tragedy, most corporations remained mute on firearms, as has much of corporate America.
A change in policies
Several well-known corporations have revised their gun-related policy in recent years.
Every attempt to reduce gun violence was frequently met with vehement opposition from Republican politicians opposed to gun regulations and companies taking a statement.
Businesses, according to gun safety activists, are accountable for protecting their employees and consumers from gun violence.
They have encouraged stores to remove weapons off their stories and instead assist in gun-violence-affected neighborhoods.
Additionally, campaigners are urging corporations to stop making political contributions to legislators with NRA links.
Bank transactions with gun or ammo makers have been halted, according to advocates.
Various businesses, particularly weapons manufacturers, have stated financial motives for opposing gun control legislation.
Some firms, on the other hand, do not think it is their job or function to weigh in on the gun issue.
Others are choosing to remain silent, fearing political repercussions and the fury of gun rights advocates.
Guns are the top issue, according to Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University history and public affairs professor and CNN political commentator.
“In a polarized era, most companies still prefer to avoid these sorts of questions,” he said.
Even though CEOs agree with the need for gun regulation, Zelizer stated that they do not want to be involved in a matter that may result in a customer reaction.
Companies have been singled out for their efforts in gun control legislation.
Republican leaders, for example, put pressure on banks and financial organizations that tried to terminate links with the guns business.
Texas approved legislation in 2021 requiring banks to underwrite the state’s municipal bond market while confirming that they would not turn away weapons clients.
Furthermore, in 2022, more than 50 House Republicans developed legislation to combat ‘boardroom gun regulation,’ prohibiting corporations that receive government support from turning away weapons businesses.
Due to political pressure from Republicans, Visa, Mastercard, and Discover suspended plans to create a new merchant category code for US gun merchants in March.
The goal of the legislation was to identify prospective mass shooters and gun smugglers.
Yet, two dozen Republican attorneys general advised the firms not to forward with the plans.
Adopting the sales code for gun stores, according to authorities, would violate gun owners’ constitutional rights while also potentially breaking consumer protection and antitrust laws.
Additionally, state lawmakers introduced laws prohibiting businesses from implementing the new code.
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Companies and consultants are debating whether corporate America should be more proactive in terms of gun safety measures.
Paul Argenti, a corporate communication professor at Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Management, devised a framework for firms becoming involved in “hot button” problems.
He suggested that companies ask the following questions:
- Is the issue tied to their corporate strategy?
- Do they have the potential to make a difference on it?
- Is there potential backlash to taking a position?
“Companies, unless they are connected, should not be speaking out,” he said.
“Companies are not social entities.”
But, in recent years, corporate America has pushed to redefine the purpose of a business beyond servicing shareholders.
The Business Roundtable is a non-profit that represents CEOs and tries to influence policy making.
The group stated in 2019 that businesses should benefit all stakeholders, including:
The comment contradicted Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman’s economic theories, which said that corporations that increase profits and serve shareholders benefit society.
According to Guns Down America executive director Igor Volsky, the ideology would require companies to take the lead in reducing gun violence.
“Whether you’re a business that works directly with gun manufacturers, sells guns or are a grocery store, gun violence comes to your front door,” said Volsky.
“As a business, you have a responsibility to keep your customers, employees, and communities safe.”
Volsky went on to say that it was in corporate America’s economic interest to assist reduce gun violence because of the commercial risks associated with shootings and the cost of gun violence on communities.
Businesses such as Dave & Buster’s, Del Taco, and Walmart have warned investors that gun violence might harm their bottom lines.
“I’m not arguing they need to solve the social issue of gun violence,” Volsky noted.
“I am arguing they have a business incentive to solve for the cost of gun violence.”
Image source: ABC News