Levi Strauss & Co. is taking a much higher profile in efforts to reduce gun violence in the U.S., committing itself to donating more than $1 million to groups pursuing that goal.
Company president and CEO Chip Bergh, in a letter published in Fortune on Tuesday, detailed why the denim-jean manufacturing behemoth would start partnering with gun safety advocates. He cited a 2016 letter he wrote requesting gun owners not bring weapons into his stores after a customer in Georgia shot himself while trying on a pair of jeans.
“In the days after I published that letter, I received threats to our stores, our business, and even on my life. It was unsettling,” Bergh said. But referring to the mass shooting at a Florida high school in February and 2012 slaughter at a Connecticut elementary school, he added that “these personal attacks pale in comparison to the threats that activists and survivors from Parkland, Sandy Hook, and daily incidents of gun violence face every time they speak up on this issue.”
Bergh in his new letter announced the company’s establishment of the Safer Tomorrow Fund, which intends to funnel grants totaling more than $1 million over the next four years to nonprofits working to end gun violence in the country. Bergh said the company also would double all donations made by its employees to the Safer Tomorrow Fund.
And Strauss & Co. will be working with Everytown for Gun Safety, which former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg set up in 2014 to, according to its mission statement, help build “a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities.”
“You may wonder why a company that doesn’t manufacture or sell guns is wading into this issue, but for us, it’s simple,” Bergh wrote. “Americans shouldn’t have to live in fear of gun violence. It’s an issue that affects all of us—all generations and all walks of life.”
Addressing those likely to react negatively to the company’s moves, he said: “I know that Americans, including many of our own consumers, employees, and other partners, hold a wide spectrum of views related to guns. I’m not here to suggest we repeal the Second Amendment or to suggest that gun owners aren’t responsible. In fact, as a former U.S. Army officer, I took a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. But as retired four-star general Michael Hayden once said, ‘There are some weapons out there that frankly nobody should have access to. And actually, there are some people out there who should never have access to any weapons.’”