ICYMI: Menendez to Business Leaders: Listen to the Kids, Pull Your Money Out of Guns

ICYMI: Menendez to Business Leaders: Listen to the Kids, Pull Your Money Out of Guns


NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) penned the following op-ed in today’s Sunday edition of the Newark Star-Ledger and on nj.com:

Last month, a weapon of war was once again used to commit mass murder in an American school. Once again, our hearts are heavy with a grief that's become far too routine.  But rather than fading from the news, our social media feeds and office chatter, this tragedy is different.

That's because Stoneman Douglas High School students pledged to turn "once again" into "never again." These young men and women were thrust into tragedy and turned their mourning into a powerful movement. 

Last week, hundreds of thousands of students across the country, including here in New Jersey, held a national walkout to demand action on gun violence and to make clear that adults -- all of us -- have failed them. 

They're right.  Adults can no longer ignore the pleas of our young people. In the aftermath of this horrific event Americans expected Congress to implement policies that reflect the will of the people. But in an era of partisanship and dysfunction, corporate America and leaders across all sectors of our economy must also take action while using their clout in Washington to demand real change.

Some companies are already moving the needle. United Airlines parted ways with the NRA. Dick's Sporting Goods took assault rifles off their shelves, and both Dick's and Walmart are limiting gun sales to those over 21.

For those who manage tremendous assets in our financial services industry -- and even own large stakes in gun manufacturing companies -- maybe, it's time your money goes elsewhere. Pension funds could divest in gun manufacturers. Banks could choose not to provide loans to the firearm industry.

And while many doctors and nurses who treat victims of gun violence have made their voices heard, it's time those at the helm of our health care sector step forward to tackle the problems raised by gun violence in this country.

No matter what industry sector you lead, you wield enormous influence. You are innovators. You are investors. You are CEOs, Chairmen and businesspeople.  When you speak, people listen. When you act, others follow.

Despite millions of gun owners' support for the Second Amendment, poll after poll tell us they also back universal background checks and commonsense gun laws.  We know that weapons, like the AR-15 and the high-capacity magazines that attach to them, are designed for one thing: high-capacity killing. These weapons are modeled after the assault rifles our soldiers use on the battlefield. They are what link Parkland to Newtown, and Las Vegas to San Bernardino, and Aurora to Orlando. But it doesn't have to be this way.

I was proud to vote for the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban when I served in the House of Representatives, and would gladly vote today to reinstate it.

I've long supported limits on high-capacity magazines, and back in October, I introduced the Keep Americans Safe Act following the slaughter of 59 souls on the Las Vegas Strip. It's narrowly focused, doesn't infringe on anyone's right to bear arms, and is exactly the kind of commonsense step we must take to keep people safe.

But we won't get anywhere if we keep letting the NRA set the agenda.

With all the NRA's talk about bad guys with guns, why do they continue to fiercely oppose universal background checks that close the so-called "gun show" loophole? Why do they oppose commonsense legislation I've also supported that blocks anyone on the Terror Watch List from purchasing a firearm?

Some in Congress are holding gun safety measures hostage until an NRA-backed "concealed carry reciprocity" bill is passed that allows states with the most lax gun laws to override states that put the safety of residents above the NRA's demands.

New Jersey has some of the toughest gun laws in America, and the sixth lowest rate of gun deaths. That's no coincidence, and we'd like to keep it that way.

Ultimately, the NRA has maybe five million members. We are a nation of 320 million-plus, and it's time we call out those who stand on the wrong side of history and spout the same old NRA talking points. 

Inaction is not an option, which is why we need corporate America with us, helping the students of Parkland -- and every school across this country -- to turn "once again" into "never again."

Their call to action has pricked the conscience of this country. And what's most refreshing is that they're not yet jaded by the ways of Washington. They've grown up practicing active shooter drills, and hearing that mass shootings are just a fact of life.

But they know they deserve better, and it's up to us adults to deliver.

Because never again do we want children to watch their best friends and beloved teachers die at the hands of a killer armed with weapons of war. And never again do we want to learn of another mass shooting in a school or church or theater or anywhere else.

We must act and we must do it now -- and I'm pleading with our business leaders to use the power of your voice to say with me: never again!