SAN FRANCISCO - Two years after San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. outlawed guns in its stores nationwide, the pioneer of the Old West on Tuesday announced a new sweeping campaign to do more to end gun violence in America.
The American clothing company took a stand against guns in 2016 when company CEO, Chip Bergh wrote an open letter asking gun owners not to bring firearms into stores, offices or facilities, even in states where it’s permitted by law.
Bergh said a customer had carried a firearm in a store and accidentally shot and injured himself while trying on a pair of jeans.
There was backlash against the company, but Levi stood firm in its decision, saying the 165-year-old company had “never been afraid to take an unpopular stand to support a greater good.”
Two years later, the company says it – and everyone--- needs to do more- to end gun violence in America, where the gun homicide rate is more than 25 times the average rate of other high-income countries.
“No single activist, organization or lawmaker is going to reverse this trajectory. It’s going to take an entire nation standing up and demanding change. And the business community plays an important role,’’ the company said in a statement released Tuesday.
With about 25 percent of Americans claiming they have been directly affected by gun violence, Levi Strauss has pledged its support for gun violence with several unique campaigns.
Under the Safer Tomorrow Fund, the company will direct more than $1 million in philanthropic grants over the next four years to fuel the work of nonprofits and youth activists who are working to end gun violence in America.
The company will form a partnership with Everytown for Gun Safety and executives from the business community, including Michael Bloomberg, to form a coalition that will work toward ending the gun violence epidemic in the United States.
The Levi Strauss Foundation will support a series of town halls in cities across the U.S. that are disproportionately impacted by gun violence.
The company will double its usual employee donation match to organizations working to end gun violence and encourage employees to utilize their five hours a month in paid volunteer time to become more politically active.
In announcing the campaign, Bergh wrote an opinion piece for Fortune magazine that says he understands that Americans, “including many of our own consumers, employees, and other partners, hold a wide spectrum of views related to guns. “
“I’m not here to suggest we repeal the Second Amendment or to suggest that gun owners aren’t responsible. In fact, as a former U.S. Army officer, I took a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,’’ Bergh wrote.
“But as retired four-star General Michael Hayden once said, “There are some weapons out there that frankly nobody should have access to. And actually, there are some people out there who should never have access to any weapons.”