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'Dear America': Marketing Execs Call for Tighter Gun Laws

By Published on .

Police form a perimeter around the road leading to the Mandalay Hotel after a gunman killed at least 59 people at a concert in Las Vegas on Sunday night.
Police form a perimeter around the road leading to the Mandalay Hotel after a gunman killed at least 59 people at a  concert in Las Vegas on Sunday night.  Credit: Mark Ralston /AFP/Getty Images

Several top marketing, media and agency execs are going public with a new call for gun safety laws in the wake of this week's mass shooting in Las Vegas. Executives from JPMorgan Chase, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola Co., Facebook, HP and Horizon Media are among the people who have signed a petition circulating via email that is demanding action in the wake of the tragedy.

The letter calls for "universal background checks that keep criminals and terrorists from purchasing guns" and legislation requiring gun owners to store firearms "so they don't lead to accidental deaths or get in the hands of people intending to do harm."

Organizers met quietly for months well before the Las Vegas massacre but decided to go public in wake of the shooting. Though the group, going by the name Gun Safety Alliance, is still formulating its plans, it could eventually run public awareness campaigns, says Steven Wolfe Pereira, chief marketing and communications officer at Quantcast, who is among those leading the effort.

Other organizers include Carolyn Everson, Facebook's VP for global marketing solutions; Kristin Lemkau, chief marketing officer at JPMorgan Chase; Ross Martin, a former Viacom exec and current CEO of the marketing and innovation agency Blackbird; Ben Lerer, CEO at Group Nine Media; and Lisa Licht, CMO of U.S. Concerts at Live Nation Entertainment, Wolfe Pereira says.

He stresses that the members are acting as individuals, not on behalf of their companies. "This is truly us as concerned citizens," he says. "But we happen to all be connected in the industry that we love and we know that advertising, media [and] marketing can stand for good," he says. "And so the same way that 'Love Has No Labels' has been able to raise awareness around diversity and inclusion, why can't we raise awareness around safety?" The Ad Council's "Love Has No Labels" campaign has been widely applauded for challenging bias since 2015.

Still, the letter signifies a new level of activism for high-profile executives, who normally have to be careful about weighing in on politically charged issues such as gun control.

Rachel Shechtman, the founder of Story, a concept shop in Manhattan that partners with brands, confirmed that she signed the letter. "It really just boils down to human decency and safety," she says.

In an email seeking signatures from colleagues, Lemkau stated that "several of us have been working on how to use our voices to help prevent gun violence for a while and after yesterday, wanted to do something real about it." She did not immediately respond to an email asking for comment. On Monday, she used Twitter to encourage people to contract elected officials about the mass shootings:

According to an emailed copy of the letter reviewed by Ad Age, signatories include Katie Bayne, senior VP, global sparkling brands for Coca-Cola Co.; Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington; Brad Jakeman, president of PepsiCo's global beverage group; Bill Koenigsberg, CEO and founder of Horizon Media; and Antonio Lucio, global chief marketing and communication officer at HP. Ad Age Publisher Josh Golden says he intends to add his name.

Below is the letter in its entirety:

Dear America,

We are sick and sad over the latest tragedy in Las Vegas and we are appealing to the great majority of people who want to see a safer country. We are only asking you to sign this if you agree with what we think are two ways all sides of this issue can come together.

Roughly 33,000 people die from gun violence every year in this country. Every day, 315 are shot in the United States and 93 die. The homicide rate in the United States is 20 times higher than 22 countries like us in wealth and population – combined.

No one is challenging the right of law abiding citizens to responsibly own a firearm. But like most of you, we believe that guns should be kept away from criminals, terrorists, domestic abusers, the dangerously mentally ill, and children.

Yes, Americans have rights. The right to be safe. The right not to be afraid when you go into a public place – to a concert or to school. The right not to have a generation of scared kids raised on lockdown drills.

We love this country. And one of the many reasons we love it is that it was built on the principle that the people could change it. We are asking people to sign their name if you support:

1. Universal background checks that keep criminals and terrorists from purchasing guns

2. Gun owners to safely storing firearms so they don't lead to accidental deaths or get in the hands of people intending to do harm

In addition to signing this petition, we are asking you to contact your local lawmaker and ask them to support these two substantive changes to our current laws. It can be your Mayor, Governor, representative in Congress or your Senator. You can find your person by going to:

https://www.facebook.com/townhall/

It may not stop every gun death, but if it prevents just one, it's worth it. People are dying who don't need to. We pledge to use our voice, influence and skills to try to prevent more gun deaths. So far, 58 people were murdered in Las Vegas and counting, making it the "deadliest" shooting in American history. Until the next one. And then the next one.

Orlando. Virginia Tech. Charleston. Aurora. San Bernardino. Sandy Hook.

And in each case, the guns used were far too easily available to people intent on doing harm. This depravity should rattle anyone with a conscience.

We hope every American will join together and correct what has been a shameful period in our nation's history. We deserve better than this. Let's end this national disgrace and show the rest of the world that the United States of America can indeed stand for the principles on which it was founded.

Signed:

Traci Alford

Katie Bayne

Jason Beckerman

Chris Bruzzo

Tom Buday

Maverick Carter

Tim Castelli

Gerald Chertavian

Joanna Coles

Ron Conway

Katie Couric

Suchit Dash

Matt Derella

Carolyn Everson

Jonah Goodhart

Rich Goodstone

Adam Grant

Desiree Gruber

Camille Hackney

Arianna Huffington

Brad Jakeman

Jason Johnson

Greg Kahn

Bill Koenigsberg

Jacki Kelley

Kristin Lemkau

Ben Lerer

Lisa Licht

Helen Lin

Antonio Lucio

Ross Martin

Wenda Harris Millard

Sean Moran

Lance Neuhauser

Shannon Pruitt

Rachel Shechtman

Devon Spurgeon

Deborah Stehr

John Sykes

Peter Szabo

Gail Tifford

Roman Tsunder

Steve Williams

Steven Wolfe Pereira

The above have signed as individuals representing their personal views – not of the views of the organizations they work for.

~ ~ ~
UPDATE: An earlier version of this article said signatories to the gun safety petition included GroupM executive Rob Norman. He had been included on the petition in error.

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