145 Executives Sign Letter Demanding Senate Action On Gun Control
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Doing nothing about America's gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable. Now, those are the words of 145 CEOs of some of the most well-known companies in the U.S. They have written a letter urging the Senate to pass legislation already approved by Democrats in the House, legislation that would tighten background checks and create a so-called red flag law to keep guns out of the hands of people perceived as safety risks.
Among those who signed is Richard Fain. He is chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises, and he joins me now. Hi there. welcome.
RICHARD FAIN: Hi, and thank you for having me.
KELLY: I wonder if you would tell me a little bit more about how this letter came about. I have read that Chip Bergh, the president and CEO of Levi Strauss, was the organizing force.
FAIN: He was, indeed. He's been an advocate for taking some action for a while. And he's reached out to us. We had had some internal conversations before that. And he organized this to try and show, I think, a groundswell of enthusiasm for taking some action.
KELLY: Why did you choose to sign?
FAIN: Well, I think this is a big problem in our country. We feel it very personally, as Parkland is very close to us.
KELLY: Parkland, Fla., where that school shooting was last year. Go on.
FAIN: Yes. And it's something our people feel very passionate about. We would like to see some action taken. And we think, as responsible citizens, to speak out and just be in support of a commonsense solution - makes good sense.
KELLY: Yeah. I read an internal letter that you sent round to your company earlier this summer. And you wrote, to go to bed on a Saturday night praying for the victims of El Paso and then have to wake up on a Sunday morning and learn that there were new victims to pray for in Dayton, it's enough. Time to do something.
FAIN: It is enough. You know, we every time we talk about our hearts and prayers go out - and I think that our thoughts and prayers do matter - but taking action matters. And we have to do something. We simply don't have the right to take no action whatsoever.
KELLY: Although corporate America has sometimes tried to stay out of politics for fear that there'll be a negative impact on business, on the bottom line. Is that something you've thought about?
FAIN: You know, we're not a political company. Our job is to provide great vacations - in fact, extraordinary vacations, I have to say. And that's really what we should be doing, and others should be doing the politicking. But this has become such a national interest, and this has reached such a level that we felt that as good corporate citizens, we should at least express our view.
KELLY: But do you - I mean, just to push you on that, do you worry that people who are NRA supporters, who are gun rights supporters are not going to book a cruise with Royal Caribbean Cruises?
FAIN: No. I think our company has always stood by its values. I think what we're doing is exactly what I think most Americans would like us to do, which is express an opinion in favor of reasonable restrictions or reasonable rules to reduce the gun violence. I personally am a gun owner. And what we are opposed to is taking no action to deal with a problem that is very serious in our country.
KELLY: What comes next? I mean, this letter goes to the Senate. Mitch McConnell, who runs the Senate, has said he's not going to act and bring any kind of vote until the president tells the Senate what he will support. I mean, I guess I'm putting my skeptics cap on and asking, it's a good headline for a day but what does it achieve if there's not follow-up action behind it?
FAIN: I think our representatives in Washington want to do the right things. I think there's the fact that you have so many heads of companies who are taking a public stance something like this is actually a big deal, and it reflects on a very strong public interest in it. I think Washington is sensitive to that kind of public outcry, and we hope that that will drive positive and reasoned solutions.
KELLY: May I ask what kind of response you got from inside your company to your signing this letter? Was - were people supportive? Did anybody raise any concerns about it?
FAIN: I'm really proud of the response that we got, proud of the fact that people felt that they could tell me whether they agreed or disagreed internally. Remember, we have a lot of people here who are - who live in the Parkland community. And so this is a subject that's near and dear to our hearts. And the overwhelming response was, yes, we are in favor of level-headed actions to control this gun violence.
KELLY: Mr. Fain, thank you.
FAIN: No, thank you very much, appreciate being here.
KELLY: That is Richard Fain, chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises and 1 of 145 signatories to a letter from corporate America urging the U.S. Senate to pass gun control legislation. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.