GSA has found a strong middle lane where gun owners and non–gun owners agree: as a society, everyone wants to be safe. Hence a focus on gun safety, not gun control. GSA asks gun owners to lock up their weapons—an action that would prevent the deaths of eight children every day.
I want my kids to grow up safely and without fear of going to school. I don’t want them to have to buy bulletproof backpacks or participate in activeshooter drills. I imagine I’m not any different from any parent—or any American. Every day, more than 100 people are shot and killed and hundreds more are wounded. This public health crisis strikes directly at the core of America’s values.
Being a leader means you stand for something. After two years as a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute, my perspective has shifted even more toward being an enlightened leader. My perspective has also shifted on the urgency to reduce gun deaths—and one day end them. I owe it to my family, my country, and my legacy.
That’s why for my leadership venture in 2017, I co-founded the Gun Safety Alliance with Kristin Lemkau, Ross Martin, Shelly Palmer, and Steven Wolf Pereira. The mission? Work together to reduce gun deaths in the United States by 50 percent by 2030.
Today, the alliance is a network of close to 100 business leaders and committed individuals from across every industry, along with 1,400 supporters who are part of its Facebook group. So as not to compete for fundraising with other gunviolence-prevention groups, GSA deliberately is not a 501c3. GSA’s collective superpower is igniting the business community and driving cultural change.
All of GSA’s founders come from the business community, and most have deep marketing backgrounds; they know that some of society’s biggest issues have been solved when businesses take a stand and change consumer sentiment. Think of wearing seat belts, recycling, and same-sex marriage. All are societal concerns that took on new energy and progress once marketing messages and business leaders spoke out. GSA wants to do the same with gun safety.
Businesses such as Levi’s, Walmart, Tom’s, and Dick’s Sporting Goods have been taking action on the issue of gun violence over the last two years. In recent months, GSA has also seen significant progress from many more corporate leaders. With support from GSA and its connections to the business community, more than 222 CEOs signed a letter written by Everytown for Gun Safety to urge the Senate to pass a bill to require background checks on all gun sales and also to pass a strong red-flag law that would allow courts to issue life-saving extreme-risk protection orders.
Both consumers and employees expect business leaders to take a stand on social issues. In the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, 84 percent of respondents said they expect CEOs to inform conversations and engage in policy debates. GSA asked Edelman to research consumer and employee sentiment around guns. The resulting research found that the majority of American adults would feel more favorably toward a company with a CEO who backs tougher background checks for gun purchases. Consumers are three times more likely to respond positively to a CEO who takes action to address gun violence.
GSA has found a strong middle lane where gun owners and non–gun owners agree: as a society, everyone wants to be safe. Hence a focus on gun safety, not gun control. If someone wants to legally own a gun, they have every right to do that. But GSA asks gun owners to lock up their weapons—an action that would prevent the deaths of eight children every day.
In addition to focusing on safe storage in the home, GSA is also focusing on the fact that 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks. So why haven’t the laws changed? Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed a bill in a bipartisan effort to address gun violence, but for the past several months it has been sitting on Senator Mitch McConnell’s desk. It is time that Americans hold elected leaders accountable to act on the common-sense measures that an overwhelming majority of the nation supports.
To every person reading this: what can you do to improve gun safety in this country? It may once have been an issue that many wanted to avoid for fear of it being too political, but there is a middle ground that most Americans can agree on. The time to accept civic responsibility to the community and country is now. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of history. And you don’t want to be buying your children or grandchildren bulletproof backpacks.
Carolyn Everson is a Henry Crown fellow and a co-founder of the Gun Safety Alliance. To see the list of CEOs who have already signed the Gun Safety Alliance letter or to add your name or company, go to ceosforgunsafety.org/pages/letter.