Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images for TOMS shoes
The House is expected to vote Wednesday on a bill that would require a background check of all firearm sales, including those that are done online or at an exhibition. On Monday, a group of four CEOs sent a letter asking Congress to adhere to the proposal.
Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes, supports causes such as access to drinking water and eye care in poor countries. But adopt something as controversial as gun control is different. He says his board has debated whether he should engage on a political issue unrelated to their affairs.
"Everyone was very concerned that we were doing something like this," he says. "But in the end, we recognized that it was an opportunity for us to truly become a leader in the business field and to show our clients that we are engaged in the problems that interest them the most. "
Along with Levi Strauss CEOs, Dick's Sporting Goods and RXR Realty signed the letter inviting the House to pass stricter background checks to gun buyers.
They wrote: "… we are writing to you because we have the responsibility and the obligation to defend the safety of our employees, our customers and all Americans in the communities we serve across the country. …
"Armed violence in the United States is not inevitable, it can be avoided, Congress can and must take steps to prevent and reduce gun violence."
According to Mr. Mycoskie, about 12% of his clients say they will no longer buy his company's shoes because of his position on guns. But he adds that current leaders must accept the departure of some customers, but those who remain will remain more faithful.
"Yes, we have lost some customers by doing this, but I think we have also strengthened our relationship in a much bigger way than anything we have lost," said Mycoskie.
Scott Rechler is CEO of RXR Realty, a developer based in New York. He has also become a strong advocate for gun safety – even though the problem has nothing to do with his business.
"I find it important that CEOs take on a greater level of social responsibility," said Rechler.
But Paul Argenti, a business professor at Dartmouth College, says CEOs need to be cautious.
"You're basically talking about passion, not logic," he says. "And companies have shareholders and it's really not worth taking risks unless it's absolutely important to you."
It may be for this reason that the number of executives who signed the letter is still small – and these are largely cadres who have already spoken out against gun violence.
John Feinblatt is President of Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group. It highlights banks and other retailers who have adopted their own gun control policies over the past year.
"It's a key moment, very much like the moment when businesses championed the equality of marriage, which has often been considered a turning point for this movement," Feinblatt said.
He said he hopes to see growing corporate support for gun control. But he also acknowledges that even if the bill is passed by the House, it will face stiffer opposition in the Senate under Republican control.