The CEOs of 145 companies issued a new call for gun safety Thursday, sending a letter to members of the Senate on Thursday stating that it is "simply unacceptable" to do nothing about gun violence and mass shootings in the U.S.
Saying the country is in a public health crisis, the CEOs say new laws that would require background checks on all gun sales "are a common-sense solution with overwhelming public support and are a critical step toward stemming the gun violence epidemic in this country."
To save lives, the letter states, "the Senate must follow the House's lead by passing bipartisan legislation that would update the background checks law."
The CEOs come from a variety of companies, including Amalgamated Bank and the Royal Caribbean Cruise line. The heads of AirBnB, Yelp and Dick's Sporting Goods also signed the letter.
Along with stronger background checks, the business leaders are calling for a strong red flag law, which could prevent shootings in cases where family members or law enforcement report concerns about someone who may be at risk of harming themselves or others.
The letter doesn't mention the financial losses from violence. Citing recent tragedies in Dayton, Ohio; El Paso, Texas; Gilroy, Calif.; and elsewhere, the CEOs say that millions of Americans have had their lives changed by gun violence, and that it's time for lawmakers to respond.
"Every day, 100 Americans are shot and killed and hundreds more are wounded," the letter states.
Several senators' offices confirmed to NPR that they've received the letter — and the topic came up when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talked with reporters Thursday morning.
"What I've said consistently is, 'Let's see if we can actually make a law here,' " McConnell said. "And making a law when you have divided government is challenging. We all have different points of view."
McConnell added that a new law would need President Trump's approval. The Senate leader's remarks came two days after he said the White House is working on a proposal to respond to recent deadly shootings. He did not provide details.
Earlier this year, the House approved two pieces of gun legislation that would require background checks for all firearm sales.
"Under the current laws, a federally licensed dealer must conduct a background check, but private sellers, people who are not licensed dealers, can sell guns without conducting a background check," as UCLA law professor Adam Winkler told NPR last month. "This law would close that loophole."
The main difference between the two House bills is the amount of time they allow for a waiting period after a gun purchaser can acquire a firearm: One version calls for three days, and the other for 10 days.
The letter is the American business community's latest attempt to push back on guns, after 53 people died in mass killings in the U.S. during the month of August. Last week, the CEO of Walmart — which suffered a shooting at an El Paso store that left 22 people dead — called on Washington to strengthen background checks and make sure people who are found to pose a danger can't access firearms.
A growing number of stores, from Walmart to CVS, Publix, Kroger and others, are also asking shoppers to refrain from openly carrying guns in their stores, whether local or states laws allow it or not.
In the wake of the recent shootings, President Trump repeatedly urged Republicans and Democrats to work together on background checks, saying on Twitter, "We cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain."
Days after issuing that message, Trump said, "Serious discussions are taking place between House and Senate leadership on meaningful Background Checks."
But the president's stance on gun issues has also wavered. For instance, he has recently insisted U.S. background checks are already strong. And in early August, Trump said he's in favor of red flag laws — but that push seems limited to having Congress back states' attempts to enact their own laws, rather than codifying the approach in federal law.
Those statements came more than a year after Trump made pledges about tighter gun control. After saying he supported comprehensive background checks, Trump said in March 2018, "Very strong improvement and strengthening of background checks will be fully backed by White House."
The president added, "Legislation moving forward."
While there has been little forward progress for background checks, the Trump administration has followed through on one of the president's other initiatives to curb gun violence, as the Justice Department said last December that it was banning the type of bump stock devices used in the Las Vegas shooting. Despite legal challenges, that ban remains in effect.
Editor's note: Walmart is among NPR's recent sponsors.
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