Corporate America – A mass shooting at a high school in Florida shocked the United States in 2018.
The tragedy spurred corporate America to tighten gun control laws.
For example, Dick’s Sporting Goods has ceased selling semi-automatic, assault-style rifles in its stores.
Citigroup limited corporate clients’ ability to purchase guns.
Following the devastating massacres in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio in 2022, Walmart halted sales of semi automatic rifles.
Yet, corporate America’s opinions about gun regulation have altered.
With the recent Nashville tragedy, most companies, like the majority of corporate America, remained mute on weaponry.
A change in policies
Some well-known companies have revised their gun-related policies in recent years.
Every attempt to reduce gun violence was generally met with vehement opposition by Republican politicians opposed to gun legislation and companies seeking to make a political statement.
Businesses, according to gun safety activists, are accountable for protecting their employees and consumers from gun violence.
They have pressured businesses to remove weapons off their shelves in order to assist communities affected by gun violence.
Furthermore, campaigners are urging corporations to refrain from making political contributions to legislators with links to the NRA.
Bank transactions with gun or ammo producers, according to campaigners, have been halted.
Certain businesses, most notably gun manufacturers, have said that they are opposed to gun control legislation for financial reasons.
Some businesses, on the other hand, think it is not their responsibility or position to remark on the gun problem.
Others opt to remain silent out of fear of political repercussions and the fury of gun rights supporters.
Guns are the most pressing 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.
Although CEOs agree on the urgency of gun regulation, Zelizer stated that they do not want to be associated with an issue that may result in a customer reaction.
Companies have been acknowledged for their efforts to gun control laws.
Republican politicians, for example, pressed banks and financial organizations to break links with the gun business.
In 2021, Texas approved laws requiring banks to support the state’s municipal bond market while promising not to turn away gun customers.
Moreover, in 2022, more than 50 House Republicans proposed legislation to prevent ‘boardroom gun control,’ which forbids government-funded businesses from turning down weapons corporations.
Due to Republican political pressure, Visa, Mastercard, and Discover postponed plans to issue a new merchant category code for US gun retailers in March.
The act was designed to catch prospective mass shooters and gun dealers.
Yet, two dozen Republican attorneys general advised the companies to shelve their plans.
Implementing the sales restriction for gun dealers, according to authorities, would violate gun owners’ constitutional rights while also potentially breaking consumer protection and antitrust laws.
Furthermore, state legislators introduced legislation to prevent businesses from implementing the new policy.
Companies and academics disagree on whether business America should be more aggressive about gun safety.
Paul Argenti, a corporate communication professor at Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Management, created a framework for companies interested in becoming involved in “hot button” problems.
He advised firms to 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.”
In recent years, however, corporate America has sought to recast a firm’s mission as something other than servicing shareholders.
The Business Roundtable is a non-profit group that advocates for CEOs and tries to influence policy.
The group stated in 2019 that companies should serve all stakeholders, including:
The comment contradicts the economic principles of Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman, who stated that corporations that increase profits and serve shareholders benefit society.
The notion, according to Igor Volsky, executive director of Guns Down America, would push 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 interests to assist reduce gun violence because of the financial risks associated with shootings and the impact of gun violence on communities.
Businesses such as Dave & Buster’s, Del Taco, and Walmart have cautioned investors that gun violence may have an impact on their profits.
“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.”