America’s biggest companies rushed to tighten their gun safety policies after the 2018 mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school.
Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped selling semi-automatic assault rifles in stores. provided to Citigroup new restrictions on gun sales by business customers.
A year later, after mass shootings at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and a nightclub in Dayton, Ohio, Walmart stopped selling handgun ammunition.
But the bottom line of corporate action on guns is over. After the recent mass shooting at a Nashville school, most companies declined to comment. Much of America’s corporations have gone silent on guns.
Few major companies have changed their gun policies in recent years. Her efforts to curb gun violence have met strong opposition from Republican lawmakers, who oppose both gun restrictions and corporate social roles.
Gun safety advocates say businesses have a civic responsibility to protect their customers and employees from gun violence. Advocates have urged retailers to ban firearms in their stores, invest in communities plagued by gun violence and end political donations to lawmakers with ties to the NRA. They have also asked banks to stop doing business with gun or ammunition manufacturers.
Some companies, including gun manufacturers, have financial reasons to fight gun restrictions. Other companies may not believe it is their responsibility or role to interfere in America’s gun debate.
And some companies remain on the sidelines on gun issues for fear of political backlash and angering gun rights supporters.
Guns are “one of the hottest hot-button topics right now,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a political analyst at CNN. “In a polarized era, most companies still prefer to avoid such questions.”
Even if executives are sympathetic to the need for gun control, they don’t want to get involved in an issue that could spark backlash from some consumers, Zelizer said.
Companies have been targeted for their gun security measures. Banks and financial institutions that have tried to cut ties to the firearms industry have come under pressure from Republican lawmakers.
Texas passed legislation in 2021 banks demand to take over the state municipal bond market to confirm that they do not and will not turn away customers with firearms.
More than 50 House Republicans introduced a bill last year that would “tackle ‘boardroom gun control'” and prevent companies that receive federal funds from turning away firearms companies.
Visa, Mastercard and Discover also paused a plan this month to introduce a new dealer category code for the nation’s gun dealers after political pressure from Republicans.
The measure was designed to flag potential mass shooters and arms dealers. But two dozen Republican attorneys general warned credit card companies not to go ahead with their plans. Republican officials said enacting a new sales code for gun shops would violate the constitutional rights of gun owners and potentially violate consumer protection and antitrust laws.
Several state lawmakers also proposed legislation that would prevent companies from using the new code.
Some companies and consultants question whether companies should take an active role in gun safety measures.
Paul Argenti, Professor of Corporate Communications at Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business, has developed a framework for companies to engage on sensitive issues. He says companies should ask: Is the issue related to their corporate strategy, do they have the potential to do something about it, and is there a potential backlash to take a position?
“Companies should not speak out unless they are connected,” he said. “Companies are not social structures.”
But corporate America in recent years has attempted to redefine a company’s purpose beyond serving shareholders.
In 2019, the Business Roundtable, which represents CEOs and seeks to influence policy making, said companies should benefit all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.
It was a departure from the economic theories of Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, who said society benefits most from corporations that increase profits and serve one master: shareholders.
Under this new philosophy, companies should take leadership positions in trying to reduce gun violence, said Igor Volksy, executive director of advocacy group Guns Down America.
“Whether you are a company that works directly with gun manufacturers, sells guns, or is a grocery store, gun violence comes to your doorstep,” he said. “As a company, you have a responsibility to protect your customers, employees and communities.”
He also argued that it is in the economic interest of corporations to play a greater role in reducing gun violence, since shootings pose business risks and gun violence takes a toll on communities. Other companies such as Dave & Buster’s, Del Taco, and Walmart have started to do so warn investors about how gun violence could affect their financial performance.
“I’m not suggesting that they have to solve the social problem of gun violence,” Volksy said. “I contend that they have a business incentive to solve the cost of gun violence.”
Source : www.cnn.com