‘We’re at a tipping point’ on gun violence, says group of American CEOs

‘We’re at a tipping point’ on gun violence, says group of American CEOs

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AMNA NAWAZ: As Congress heads back to work
following a string of deadly mass shootings this summer, pressure is building on lawmakers
to pass meaningful legislation that could reduce gun violence in this country. Today, a number of corporate leaders and CEOs
added their voices to the debate with a new campaign that’s directed at the Senate. Previous gun legislation has often died there
in the past. William Brangham has a closer look now at
this new campaign. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That’s right, Amna. The CEOs of 145 U.S. companies just sent a
letter to senators urging them to pass legislation to expand background checks on anyone seeking
to buy a gun and to implement a national red flag law, which would allow law enforcement
to temporarily take guns from anyone judged to be a danger to themselves or to others. The letter said, in part: “Doing nothing about
America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable.” And it’s signed by the heads of companies
like Levi Strauss, Twitter, The Gap, and Uber. Another of the signatories is Richard Edelman. He’s the CEO of Edelman, the global public
relations and communications firm. And he joins me now from New York City. Mr. Edelman, thank you very much for being
here. Why now? Why did this letter — why so many CEOs feel
the need to say this today? RICHARD EDELMAN, CEO, Edelman: We’re at a
tipping point. We had Dayton and El Paso. We have continuing gun violence in major urban
centers. And CEOs feel that they are empowered to step
forward into the void left by government, that three-quarters of people, according to
the Edelman Trust Barometer, now want CEOs to stand up and speak up on behalf of issues
of the day. And that’s a new kind of moment in corporate
world. So CEOs are doing so, with the backing of
their employees and the backing of their customers. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The reforms that you spelled
out are things, as you well know, that are currently encased in bills that are already
in the House, background checks and red flag laws. Why do you favor those particular reforms? RICHARD EDELMAN: Well, Edelman went out into
the field the last week of August and surveyed 1,000 Americans. And we found that more than 70 percent of
Americans actually are going to be more trusting in companies that — where CEOs speak up on
behalf of gun safety, and, further, that four in five said that they would be more inclined
to buy brands where companies spoke out. So the private sector has every reason to
speak up and urge the Senate to act on behalf of all Americans. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The letter that you all
signed is addressed to the Senate, but we know that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
has said he’s not going to bring any bill to the Senate floor that the president doesn’t
back. So shouldn’t the president be getting this
letter, as well as the Senate? RICHARD EDELMAN: Again, our study was clear
that the two preeminent goals of the Gun Safety Alliance are background checks and safe storage
of guns. We are in favor of the Second Amendment right
to bear arm, but we want that gun owners conduct their business safely. And gun owners want that, too; 70 percent
of gun owners told us that they actually want these things, Republicans, a majority of them,
a big majority of Democrats. So everybody is in favor, and we think President
Trump should be the number one endorser of this legislation. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: What are you and other CEOs
going to do to keep up the pressure? It’s one thing to sign a sternly worded letter
to the Senate. It’s another thing to, say, keep up lobbying
members of Congress. It’s another thing to, say, change the way
or how you donate money. Do you have a sense that CEOs will find other
ways to try to keep up the pressure? RICHARD EDELMAN: There’s no doubt that we’re
acting in a new way, talking to congressmen, also to senators, but we’re also using the
power of our employees, who are going to be our motive force. Employees want us to speak on their behalf. And it’s an urgent time for CEOs to mobilize,
in the sense, their entire supply chain of those who contribute to their businesses and
get them to write letters as well. These 145 colleagues of mine are just part
of the effort to get this legislation through. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You mentioned that this
is, in essence, good for business to take this stance, that your customers have expressed
to you that this is something they believe in, too. So is this a business decision that’s being
made, or is this being a decision that’s based on principle? RICHARD EDELMAN: This is a business decision. And it’s a business decision because the entire
focus of business now has to be employee-based. The number one trusted institution today is
my employer. And there’s new expectations of CEOs to stand
up and speak up, whether it’s about guns, LGBT, immigration, or other issues. So, in effect, in a vacuum, people are relying
on brands and on corporations to answer the call. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Can you help me understand
why it took so long for the business community en masse to come forward on this? I mean, why — after we failed to take any
action after Sandy Hook, after Las Vegas, after Parkland, why did it take so long? RICHARD EDELMAN: I think the real question
for CEOs was, well, if I take a stand on guns, then I’m going to be asked to take stands
on all sorts of issues. And I think there’s a new crop of CEOs, younger,
more socially oriented. Chip Bergh of Levi Strauss is leading the
campaign for this letter. He has called dozens of CEOs. And now you see stores following Walmart’s
lead and Kroger and others asking customers to leave their guns out of the stores. It’s now a movement. We have reached a tipping point. And change is only going to happen if business
exerts its muscle in the political process. We need to see CEOs come to Washington, speak
to their representatives, and urge them to do the right thing for the American people,
which is to get background checks and safe storage. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Richard Edelman,
thank you very much for being here. RICHARD EDELMAN: Thank you for having me.

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