San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. stepped into the national debate on gun safety yesterday when company CEO Chip Bergh published an open letter asking that his customers stop bringing firearms into Levi's stores. The request follows what Bergh calls an accidental shooting in one of his storefronts — a gun-toting shopper shot himself/herself (the identity of the person is unclear) — and has already begun to ruffle the heavily armed feathers of some customers.
Bergh was quick to clarify that this is not an outright ban, rather a request, but nevertheless a request that even applies to stores in states where it is legal to carry concealed weapons. "So, while we understand the heartfelt and strongly-held opinions on both sides of the gun debate, it is with the safety and security of our employees and customers in mind that we respectfully ask people not to bring firearms into our stores, offices or facilities, even in states where it’s permitted by law," wrote Bergh. "It boils down to this: You shouldn’t have to be concerned about your safety while shopping for clothes or trying on a pair of jeans. Simply put, firearms don't belong in either of those settings."
As Reuters reports, Bergh is not the only CEO of a major customer-facing corporation to take this stance — Target Corp, Sonic, Chili's, and others have all made a similar request. And yet, according to the news agency, white-nationalist sites like Breitbart are up in arms about Bergh's policy and have published harshly critical stories about it. The hashtag #BoycottLeviStrauss also provides a window into those who insist that they need a gun to go jeans shopping and that Bergh's polite request is an imposition on their liberty.
This is not the first time conservatives have promised to boycott the denim purveyor. In 2011, Glenn Beck expressed shock (shock!) at a Levi's ad campaign "glorifying revolution," and some of his followers vowed to switch to Wranglers. Somehow Levi Strauss & Co. managed to survive that round of economic protests, and Bergh no doubt believes that this time around his company will also not be too deeply impacted by any negative fallout from his request.
"Providing a safe environment to work and shop is a top priority for us at Levi Strauss & Co.," wrote Bergh. "In the end, I believe we have an obligation to our employees and customers to ensure a safe environment and keeping firearms out of our stores and offices will get us one step closer to achieving that reality."