In the true spirit of never let a crisis go to waste, Peter Ambler, who serves as the executive director of Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, penned an article in Fast Company with a similar title, “CEOs: It’s time to take a stand on gun safety. It will help your business.“
In it, Ambler says that his PAC commissioned a survey finding that people believe that companies should take a more active role in helping their employees navigate uncertain times. That much we can agree on. That he somehow saw fit to take those general concerns and twist them to say that companies should deepen their relationship with his political cause struck me as a bit of a stretch.
My experience with guns and people ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 house arrest quarantine has been somewhat different. I have been inundated with questions from people contemplating buying a gun. And I’m not talking about friends. I’m an active competitor and firearms instructor. Most of the people I know already have guns. Many are also experts in the use of firearms.
Nope. These are people who either have never used a gun in their lives or have never really considered having a firearm outside of their work. I’ve had cops call me saying it’s time that they finally bought a personal AR15 to keep at home and train their families in how to use it. They want to know my recommendation on build or buy, best configurations, barrel length, twist rate, magazines, ammunition, sights, training. The messages come in via emails, text messages, social media. I’ve had other friends introduce me to their friends specifically to ask questions about purchasing firearms and using them for self-defense. I’ve even had people notice the shooting competition memorabilia printed on my T-shirt and randomly blurt out, “I’m thinking about buying a gun”. The most often random blurters these days? Women. That nurturing mama Grizzly instinct is strong these days.
I’ve been part of the shooting community for decades. Until 2020, this did not happen as frequently. Not at this intensity. Not from these politically orphaned middle of the road Americans. Not even during the Clinton or Obama eras. But it is happening now as people ponder what the future might bring to the United States after the November presidential election. People are worried. When people worry, they prepare. That is human nature. Right now, the number of Americans contemplating relying on the 2nd Amendment is growing.
Sorry, Peter, but gun control rhetoric does not change the on the ground reality of what is happening. This is not about manipulating polls and statistics. Nor is it about selling a fundraising narrative for an organization that looks to only spend a minor fraction on the dollar for its 501(c4) objective and mission statement; the rest going into administrative costs and vendor payments. For the curious, Ambler’s PAC’s FEC records ID is C00540443. I’ll just go on record here that, if you are reading this and are a gun control supporter, you are better off donating your money somewhere else. Look for one that spends well over 50 percent of every donated dollar on direct action.
The Need for Inclusive CEO’s
For CEOs of America’s companies, this is about looking at the records of how many background checks and new purchases were made by individuals in the United States who had never bought a gun before in the last half-year. It really is about corporations stepping up to their true responsibility, given this reality.
In my previous observation about the growth of gun ownership in America, “Decision 2020: Have Democrats Misjudged the Gun Vote?”, I noted that according to FBI data compiled by industry group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), new gun owner purchases have been skyrocketing at a rate of 1.6 to 1.8 million new background checks per month since April 2020. It’s estimated there are around 5 million new gun owners in America. That is almost as many new gun owners in six months as the NRA’s entire 5.7 million membership base. It is like rolling the doubling cube in Yahtzee!
What should CEOs make sure influences their corporate responsibility and sustainability objectives going forward with respect to gun safety? Here are some suggestions.
First, recognize that your company needs to be a pillar of certainty, safety, and impartial diligence for your employees and your customers in uncertain times. There are many theories being experimented with in your sustainability departments that may or may not be in the best interest of your business. You should be critically examining all of them and demanding that they present executives and boards of directors with both sides of every issue and how it affects your internal and external interactions; and be prepared to demand that they find truth, even inconvenient truth.
When it comes to corporate gun policy, it should be pretty obvious to anyone in senior management that there is a wide gap between the narrative of the gun control advocates and the street reality of the 2nd Amendment, which is, by the way, fervently supported across the universality of American politics.
Your employees and customers live and work in that street reality. They worry about it. They worry that social order is disintegrating into dystopia. They act on it. Among other things, they are buying guns.
In the world beyond corporations, the gun community worries about how to properly train all these new gun owners. They need to learn proper gun safety. They need to learn proper gun handling and marksmanship. They need to learn when and how it is legal to use a firearm, both recreationally and for self-defense.
The path to that is to create acceptable social cultures that recognize the legitimacy of their worries, raises expectations of their operating knowledge, and accepts them into a positive social compact when they have reached a point where what began as fear turns into constructive knowledge.
Corporations can very much help in this regard. They can recognize that they have employees and customers who have transformed from passive observers of uncertain times into active participants in the effort to restore higher quality to life for US society. So, help them be better at it.
Promote a street realistic inclusive culture. Have your people look into cultural understanding classes for all employees that help them accept their differing views on guns. Tell your training vendors that you insist they cover both sides of the coin in their materials, not just one narrative or the other. Tell them they won’t get paid for a half-done job. Frankly, you should be insisting on this for all other corporate training you’re doing anyway. It’s time to tell your human resources and legal departments that denigration of your gun owner employees is a form of social discrimination, one for which they should protect the company, particularly if the world continues to be uncertain. There is an already long list of social wedge issues in the workplace you are trying to mitigate. Add this one.
Support the socially constructive intentions of your employees. Incorporate firearms knowledge into how you ensure promoting a skill valuing culture in your company. I would suggest that companies pursue policies that encourage all employees, gun-owning or not, to be knowledgeable of the safe practices for firearms. Fear of the unknown is a bad thing for any aspect of a business. It detracts from workforce cohesion and creates unnecessary business friction. It ultimately leaves the CEO unable to capitalize on opportunity. Again, tell your HR and Legal people to look for hidden opportunity for your firm’s value chain.
Specifically, end the bullying practice of demeaning the gun owners among your ranks into hiding in the shadows of your corporate broom closet. It’s hurtful in the same way as forcing other people’s values into the closet have been. We’ve had enough of that in America. We can do better. Instead, see them as resources to assure all your employees. Your most skilled gun owners are the ones who are most likely to tell your most fearful employees to stay calm. Consider what that can do to help your corporate process as you navigate structural changes like permanently remote workers and travel/commuting into degraded conditions in some urban centers.
And then, CEOs should instruct their front office departments to do the same innovative adapting to new normality. Like your employees, your customers are also living the phenomenon of seeing a spike in the number of new gun owners per capita. This is particularly true in consumer-facing businesses. Don’t be stupid. Your job as the CEO is to adapt to this street reality.
Yes, there have been CEOs who have bought into the “I don’t want any gun owner’s business” political philosophy. They’ve all lost market share. Proud losers. Be a prouder winner. America is a competitive, free-market, capitalist state. Aim your business to take advantage of vacated market share. Grab the gun-owning former customers. You will have a more culturally inclusive business model. It will have more appeal to consumers on the margin than non-inclusive businesses during tribal episodes. That will translate into better top lines, better inventory flow, and scaling cost structures that will improve your competitive positioning. Not to mention, if the US continues deeper into dystopia, your business will be perceived to be a safer one to patronize. Just saying.
So yeah, it will help your business.