As of this writing, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history (the 2017 Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, in which 59 people were killed) took place at an event. Other mass shootings in recent years have also occurred at events: a movie premiere, a food festival, an employee gathering. Mass shooters find target-rich environments where people gather: schools, places of worship, nightclubs, and, of course, live events.
On September 12th, 145 CEOs sent a letter to the Senate urging them to take action on this issue, including Uber, Levi Strauss, Dicks Sporting Goods, Gap, Twitter, Condé Nast and Omnicom, as well as event & hospitality industry companies Eventbrite, Airbnb, Splash, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Stanlee Gatti Designs. It is long overdue that our industry join this effort.
The ‘Duty of Care’ Imperative
The Business Risk
One of the 9/11 Commission Report’s most haunting statements is that those attacks could have been foreseen and prevented, but for a failure of imagination on behalf of the intelligence agencies. This shouldn’t be a problem for our industry, since there have been shootings at festivals and other events. If, however, you’re thinking, “Yeah, but that’s different; I plan conferences,” let’s paint an image closer to home.
Open Carry Laws
Where Is the Industry’s Voice?
- When Indiana passed a religious freedom law (noted by the case of the baker who refused a gay wedding client on religious grounds), a convention industry backlash caused them to rethink it.
- When North Carolina passed a bathroom bill requiring transgender people to use the rest room of their birth certificate gender, numerous organizations pulled their events.
- When Tennessee passed a law enabling therapists to refuse to treat patients if it would conflict with a religious belief, the American Counseling Association pulled their 2017 convention out of Nashville, even though it cost them $750,000 in cancellation fees. (See Convene: The Cost of Conscience)
Taking A Stand
- INSTITUTE UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS by having the Senate pass the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 8) which passed the House of Representatives on 2/27/2019. This closes the ‘gun show loophole’ which exempts private sales from standard background checks. 90% of Americans support this (source: Fox News poll).
- REINSTATE THE FEDERAL ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN (which also covers high capacity magazines) that expired in 2004. Weapons of war should be reserved for the military, police and other properly trained security forces. 70% of Americans support this (source: POLITICO/Morning Consult poll).
This is the bare minimum our industry should support, and is still a far cry from the regulations in most industrialized countries. We’re not talking about an Australia-style ban, or requiring gun owners to take a vision and skill test like we do for drivers’ licenses. [And if you’re on the fence because of arguments posited by gun industry lobbyists, get the facts, look at the data, and make your own decision.]
- Sign the Petition for Gun Safety at Events on behalf of our industry, supporting the two basic gun safety proposals outlined above, which will be delivered to members of Congress and state legislatures, in consultation with with the corporate affairs team at Everytown for Gun Safety.
- Join a growing coalition (to be announced shortly) of ceos, thought leaders, influencers and industry professionals who want to make a difference. Please email me directly to get involved.
- Contact your elected officials and let them know how this issue affects your events and businesses.
- Speak out. Share your concerns on social media. Email editors at industry publications. Talk to your association leaders.
Make your voice heard. Stand up and be counted. The current system is unsustainable and we must work toward a solution together. Your event attendees’ safety, and your livelihood, depend on it.
The opinions listed here are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of ELI’s instructors, staff or supporters. I understand that some of you may be angered by my expressing these views in a professional setting, and may cancel your ELI subscriptions, withdraw from our professional development courses, or otherwise stop supporting us. We’re not a large organization and losing any customer will have a significant impact, but I feel strongly this is worth that risk, and I encourage others with similar concerns to join me in taking a stand. This is about the business risks to our industry and the safety of our event attendees, not about politics. As Joan Allen’s character said in The Contender, “Principles only mean something if you stick with them when they’re inconvenient”.
Special thanks to those of you who provided invaluable guidance and support in helping me frame these views in a constructive and impactful manner. I look forward to your continued leadership on this initiative in the coming weeks and months.