Corporate America – In 2018, the United States was jolted by a mass shooting at a high school in Florida.
The incident prompted corporate America to strengthen gun control regulations.
Dick’s Sporting Goods, for example, has stopped selling semi-automatic, assault-style firearms in its stores.
Citigroup restricted business clients’ access to buy weapons.
Following catastrophic shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio in 2022, Walmart suspended sales of handgun ammunition.
Yet, corporate America’s gun-control attitudes have shifted.
With the recent Nashville tragedy, most firms, like most of corporate America, kept silent on weapons.
A change in policies
In recent years, some well-known firms have updated their gun-related policies.
Any attempt to prevent gun violence was usually greeted with intense resistance from Republican lawmakers opposed to gun laws and corporations making a political statement.
According to gun safety campaigners, businesses are responsible for safeguarding their employees and customers from gun violence.
They have pushed retailers to remove firearms off their shelves and instead help communities affected by gun violence.
Moreover, activists are pushing companies to avoid making political contributions to politicians who have ties to the NRA.
According to activists, bank transactions with gun or ammunition manufacturers have been suspended.
Some companies, notably gun manufacturers, have declared financial reasons for opposing gun control legislation.
Other businesses, on the other hand, do not believe it is their duty or role to comment on the gun problem.
Others are preferring to keep silent for fear of political ramifications and the wrath of gun rights activists.
According to Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University history and public affairs professor and CNN political pundit, guns are the most pressing problem.
“In a polarized era, most companies still prefer to avoid these sorts of questions,” he said.
While CEOs agree on the importance of gun control, Zelizer remarked that they do not want to be involved in an issue that may cause a customer backlash.
Businesses have been recognized for their contributions to gun control legislation.
Republican officials, for example, exerted pressure on banks and financial institutions that attempted to cut ties with the gun industry.
Texas passed legislation in 2021 forcing banks to underwrite the state’s municipal bond market while pledging not to turn away gun clients.
Additionally, in 2022, more than 50 House Republicans devised legislation to prevent ‘boardroom gun control,’ which prohibits enterprises that receive government funding from turning down weapons companies.
In March, Visa, Mastercard, and Discover delayed plans to develop a new merchant category code for US gun shops due to political pressure from Republicans.
The legislation’s purpose was to detect potential mass shooters and gun traffickers.
Yet, two dozen Republican attorneys general recommended the businesses to abandon the plans.
According to officials, implementing the sales rule for gun retailers would violate gun owners’ constitutional rights while also potentially violating consumer protection and antitrust laws.
Moreover, state legislators filed measures barring firms from applying the new regulation.
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Businesses and experts are arguing whether corporate America should take a more proactive approach to gun safety.
Paul Argenti, a corporate communication professor at Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Management, developed a framework for businesses that want to get involved in “hot button” issues.
He recommended that businesses 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 attempted to reframe the purpose of a firm as something other than serving shareholders.
The Business Roundtable is a non-profit organization that represents CEOs and attempts to influence legislation.
In 2019, the organization declared that enterprises should benefit all stakeholders, including:
The remark contradicted Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman’s economic ideas, which said that firms that raise profits and serve shareholders benefit society.
According to Igor Volsky, executive director of Guns Down America, the concept would force corporations to take the lead in decreasing 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 explain that it was in the economic interests of corporate America to help reduce gun violence because of the business risks involved with shootings and the impact of gun violence on communities.
Companies including Dave & Buster’s, Del Taco, and Walmart have warned investors that gun violence might affect 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.”