The business world is getting a lot more outspoken about combating gun violence.

In the wake of multiple recent mass shootings, a group of business leaders representing 145 major U.S. companies co-signed a letter to the Senate on Thursday, urging action on federal gun control measures. The group includes influential founders from companies such as Airbnb, Beyond Meat, Credit Karma, DoorDash, Eventbrite, Impossible Foods, Lyft, Pinterest, Postmates, Reddit, Square, Thrive Global, Twitter, and Yelp.

The letter, which was shared with The New York Times, advocates for background checks on all gun sales and a strong red flag law that would allow law enforcement to seize guns from potentially dangerous gun owners. The U.S. House of Representatives has advanced multiple gun control measures in recent weeks, and the letter calls on the Senate to follow suit. "These proposals are common-sense, bipartisan, and widely supported by the American public," the letter reads.

It's a significant move from the business community, which doesn't often advocate this publicly or collectively in the political sphere. Many signees likely were inspired by Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, who in the wake of a mass shooting in a Texas Walmart store, reportedly sent his own series of letters to Congress about gun control last week and stopped selling certain guns and ammunition at the chain.

It's also risky. Taking a public stance on polarizing issues like gun control can affect sales. McMillon's actions last week, for example, led to a sizable "#boycottwalmart" movement on social media. At least one CEO who signed Thursday's letter, Chip Bergh of Levi Strauss, is already expecting pushback. "To a certain extent, these CEOs are putting their businesses on the line here, given how politically charged this is," he told the Times.

Multiple current and former Inc. columnists signed the letter, including ThirdLove co-founder Heidi Zak, Okta co-founder Todd McKinnon, and Fundera founder Jared Hecht. In an email to Inc., Hecht explained his reasons for signing:

An investor of ours shared a draft of the letter with me and I immediately put my name on it. This is not a political statement whatsoever. I simply want to live in a country where, as a business leader, I don't have to worry about our employees, customers, and partners becoming statistics of gun violence. For all intents and purposes, we are well behind the curve relative to other countries, and for far too long we have been reading the same headlines about mass shootings over and over again. This is not normal. It is a solved problem elsewhere, and something must change and it must change now.

On a personal level, I have two young children and I want them to be able to grow up in a world where they don't have to live in fear of gun violence in school, the playground, a grocery store, or at a fair.

Notably absent among the letter's signers are executives from the so-called FAANG companies: Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google. Facebook and Google are currently under antitrust scrutiny--and their leaders didn't sign, the Times reported, because of fear of a greater spotlight on their companies.

Published on: Sep 12, 2019