The epidemic of gun violence continues to threaten each and every one of us, and continues to widen the divide between those who formerly had only an academic or intellectual opinion, but who now are deeply entrenched in what has sadly become the premier emotional issue in our country.
The rift pits neighbors and family members against one another, and stymies any meaningful effort at governance in our legislatures by its over-arching impact.
More needs to be done to mend ways, rectify our moral conscience, and take appropriate action against those who support the continued proliferation and availability of assault-type military weapons.
It is not enough to support gun control advocates. We seem to be starting to recognize that. Throughout the nation, there is a slow rumbling of responses against gun advocates by companies and organizations who show their true mettle with more than vacuous “tsk, tsk, so sad” commentary. In some cases, we see the loss of favored status to National Rifle Association members through the loss of privileges and discounts (like Hertz, Visa, Delta and United).
Others are supporting the boycott of companies that do business with the NRA. And still, others like Dick’s Sporting Goods have stopped selling assault rifles altogether.
Maybe actions like these are indicators of a changing American consciousness. And certainly we, each of us, ought to show our consumer support to companies like these.
“Hit them in the wallet” is an oft-used cliché that may characterize this approach to the issue of gun control, since it appears that attempts to develop a moral cognizance alone have not been effective. But clearly, we need to do more because there is always the opposition.
Companies like FedEx, Hyatt Regency, Omni Hotels, Bass Pro Shops and Cabelas still offer direct support to the NRA and its members. Newsweek reported Feb. 26 that “most (of the NRA’s) high-profile partnerships are with tech giants Amazon, YouTube, Apple and Roku. All of these companies have so far declined to halt streaming of the gun lobby’s television channel, NRATV.”
Are we, and each of us, willing to show our consumer opposition to these companies? And is what we do sufficient to turn the tide?
Supporting candidates who think the way we do with our singular vote and using our personal wallets may seem to be little drops in an overwhelmingly large bucket, but there are others who can, by their actions, make a very significant impact.
The civil service unions are usually energetic and outspoken in their support of Democratic candidates for public office — those who independently support education and intelligent gun control measures, and really need no further admonishing on this issue. Union members usually vote predictably for the morally honorable among the candidates, and union coffers are always tapped in efforts to get out the votes in favor of the candidates they endorse.
This is good, but maybe more can be done.
Union leaders and their political action committees need to focus on educating the ill-informed and the indifferent. Efforts and monies need not be focused on favored candidates alone, but rather on educating the public and underscoring the need to vote as well.
Too often, we assume the public will recognize its civic duty to vote: a fool’s assumption! (Only 23.9 percent of New York City’s registered voters marked a ballot for Mayor de Blasio in 2017).
Labor unions and their pension funds can significantly do far more. They control billions of dollars. While they have been notably careful not to specifically invest with companies that back the NRA, they need to do more.
They need to look very carefully at all of their financial holdings and make appropriate adjustments. Any mutual fund that carries investments with proponents of the continue sale and possession of automatic weapons and ammunition should be shunned, and funds invested elsewhere.
Investment managers who support and advocate for those funds should quite simply not be employed. Last year, the Teachers’ Retirement System paid more than $328 million in fees to its investment managers. One must only wonder how much of that was paid to managers who support and promote the sale of AK-47s and AR-15s, and other military weapons of destruction.
The unions have a fiduciary responsibility not to wonder (as we might), and they have the moral responsibility to their members, their members’ families, and the public for whom they work to carefully investigate not only their investments, but the broad pool of funds of which those investments are merely a small part.
Similarly, the brokerage firms that work for the unions and for the pension funds need to be vetted for any affiliation with, and tacit support of, those companies still working to keep military weapons in the hands of assassins.