The recent wave of mass shootings across the country has renewed partisan debates over gun control and the scope of the Second Amendment, which reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
Edelman CEO Richard Edelman was one of 200 U.S. CEOs recently signed a letter demanding that Congress take action on gun safety in the form of new legislation.
"This is 10 years after Sandy Hook, and status quo just won't do," Edelman recently said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above). "Somehow, falling back on the rights of citizens to bear arms is just kind of an excuse for delaying what is inevitably in the interests of the communities."
The corporate leaders — including those of Lyft, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Unilever — called the gun violence epidemic “a public health crisis," according to Axios.
"All of this points to a clear need for action: the Senate must take urgent action to pass bold gun safety legislation as soon as possible in order to avoid more death and injury," the letter stated.
A few days after Edelman spoke, the Senate reached an agreement for gun-related measures aimed at preventing future shootings akin to what recently happened in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. However, the specific language of any potential legislation has yet to be written.
A majority of Americans (59%) support prioritizing legislation to control gun violence versus 35% who believe it's more important to protect gun rights, according to a recent Marist Poll.
'I believe in the Second Amendment'
Edelman stressed that he and his fellow chief executives are not seeking to ban all weapons.
“To be clear, what [the letter] said was nothing specific,” Edelman said. “We want something like a red flag law, or we want some limitation on age, or we want something that limits high-capacity ammunition — all of these should be on the table. It’s up to Congress to make the specifics. But we need gun safety.”
He added that “I believe in the Second Amendment, but I want to be sure that guns are used appropriately.”
Current proposals being floated include expanding background checks, expanding red flag laws, and raising the minimum age to buy an assault rifle to 21. Republican opposition is expected, though, as many are instead pushing for legislation to address mental health issues.
Finding a middle ground
While Edelman has previously been vocal about corporate leaders finding a balance between activism and appeasing stakeholders, he said this letter was about messaging to employees and elected leaders.
“I thought it was interesting the group of CEOs who did sign on,” Edelman said. “It was a mix of tech companies, younger companies, clothing companies, consumer products companies, some service companies like my own. It's a pretty unanimous kind of approach. And corporate America is saying, come on, Senate, do your job. It's time. Find a middle ground. Even if we have to settle for less than optimal from some sides or other — get to legislation.”
According to Edelman’s 2022 Trust Barometer, “more than 8 in 10 respondents want CEOs to be the face of change, leading on policy, not on politics.”
For Edelman, signing a public letter calling for gun legislation does exactly that.
“Now, there can be others who are CEOs who contact their [congresspeople] or senators personally, make contributions personally — that's a perfectly plausible approach,” Edelman said. “I'm not saying that every company should use its platform to advance societal issues writ big, whether it's abortion, voting rights, or gun control. But if you are, as a citizen, convinced that this is the right thing, at least as a CEO contact your legislator and say, it's time to pass this legislation. Do it privately. That's fine too.”
The question for CEOs, he added, amounts to: “Is it the right thing to do as a public advocate, which I did yesterday on signing on to the letter, or is it better to do privately with your congressman and senator? That, again, is a perfectly plausible approach if this is going to upset your workforce or your consumer base.”
Adriana Belmonte is a reporter and editor covering politics and health care policy for Yahoo Finance. You can follow her on Twitter @adrianambells and reach her at email@example.com.