September 20, 2019

CEOs Speak on Gun Violence

CEOs Speak on Gun Violence

As a dad, it was hard for me to watch the new public service announcement on gun violence prevention that was all over the news this week. It opens with kids doing what many of our children did on the first day of school, happily breaking out brand new school supplies – a new backpack, a binder and noise-cancelling headphones.

Then you see a teacher trying to secure a classroom door in the background from an active shooter. Students flee and start using their new gear to protect themselves. A boy uses his new sneakers to run away from a gunman. A student breaks a window with his new skateboard. A little girl arms herself with scissors. Another uses a pair of new socks as a tourniquet. It’s heart wrenching.

What’s even more painful to watch is the lack of progress we’ve made in protecting our children and the general public from random gun violence. The video was created by Sandy Hook Promise, a group that took shape after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012. Although there have been some attempts to address gun violence since Sandy Hook – like the police officers and bulletproof doors some schools have added – we have a very long way to go before anyone can feel truly safe in public places.

What makes this all the more personal to me is the fact that I have three school-age children who are growing up thinking this is normal. It’s a long way from the Cold War era air raid drills that I remember from my elementary school days.

The U.S. is woefully behind other countries on this. Did you know that Americans from ages 15 to 24 are 50x more likely to die from gun violence than their peers in other wealthy countries? That was the finding of a new report that came out Wednesday. This has to stop.

Given how complex and urgent this is, it’s time we bring new muscle to the discussion. 145 CEOs – among them the leaders of Dick’s Sporting Goods, Levi Strauss, Reddit, Twitter and Uber – just came together and sent a letter to Senate leaders, asking Congress to get tough on gun violence. Given the opportunity, I would have signed, as well. They called for expanded background checks on all gun sales and stronger “red flag” laws to make it easier to remove weapons from people who pose a threat to themselves or others. This isn’t a partisan issue. It’s not about the second amendment. It’s about the fear of preventable workplace catastrophe and the fact that companies now have to consider a whole new dimension to safety protocol aimed at keeping our employees alive in the event a mad person bearing arms decides to go on the rampage. This makes fire drills look like kindergarten recess.

Business leaders are tired of waiting to see who’s next, while Congress plays ping-pong with new regulations. CEOs are stepping up to become part of the solution. The Business Roundtable’s new definition of corporate purpose, stating that businesses should not just serve shareholders but also customers, employees, and other stakeholders, will spark more action along these lines. The decisions that scalable companies, middle-market firms and big corporations make about what goods they choose to sell, the mental health benefits they offer in their health plans, and safety precautions they put in place can all make a difference.

Ultimately, business doesn’t take place in a vacuum. If our employees, customers and members of our community are dropping off their children and grandchildren at school wondering if they will arrive home safely at the end of the day, we need to act. The time is now. The political system isn’t moving fast enough.

P.S. The media world lost a good one this week, when journalist Cokie Roberts passed away. She was a national treasure and a role model, and will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, Cokie.

P.P.S. I got home last night from this week’s trip to South Florida and Chicago, the start of our annual State of the Firm meetings tour. Next week has us in Nashville, Houston, LA and San Francisco. It’s a grueling travel schedule, but it’s good to be out meeting with the people who make Marcum the great place it is for our clients and associates.