Elliot Fineman's oped about Hallmark action appears on the Hill

June 13, 2014, 10:30 am

A real Father’s Day present for your Dad—your safety


By Elliot Fineman


On Valentine’s Day 2012, National Gun Victims Action Council (NGVAC), a group I founded after my son was killed by a deranged shooter, launched an action against Starbucks called “Brew Not Bullets.” Starbucks had been sanctioning the open and concealed carry of firearms in their stores, a clear threat to the safety of Starbuck’s employees and patrons.

First, with a boycott of Starbucks, that company found out the hard way that when people from all walks of life join forces to protect their families, those who ignore our basic right to life will lose every time. Since then—due to our work and that of other great organizations advocating for gun safety—a number of other companies from Chipotle to Chili’s have followed suit.

In doing so, they’ve stood up to vocal “open carry” advocates, honoring not only the overwhelming sentiment of their customers, but the innocent lives taken in such spaces.  This includes that of my son—who was minding his own business having dinner with his wife in a San Diego restaurant when he was shot and killed by a mentally ill man who should never have had a gun.

Accordingly, the Newtown Victims & Clergy for Corporate Responsibility (NVCCR) and NGVAC decided to take the next step. We sent a letter to Hallmark Cards asking them to publicly support and proactively advocate for universal background checks.

Sadly, however, even though Hallmark says on its website it has “high standards of ethics and integrity,” and believes in “caring and responsible corporate citizenship for…each community in which we operate,” in response to our request, Hallmark Chairman Donald Hall, Jr. sang quite a different tune. He responded dismissively, refusing to meet with us, and saying, “We do not get involved in divisive issues.”

Sorry Mr. Hall, but that’s not going to cut it anymore.Hallmark bans guns in its corporate headquarters to protect its CEO and senior management, so why has the company deliberately chosen not to require Hallmark Gold Crown® stores to do the same? This would seem to send a message that the lives of Hallmark executives are more important than those of their customers, who buy their cards and pay their salaries.

Of course, no matter what Hall says, Hallmark clearly is involved in this divisive issue, because to not ban guns or support universal background checks is a pro-gun stance. Further, Hallmark takes strong stands on other issues and pays its eight lobbyists over $500,000 per year to try to pass laws related to postage, radio, television and taxes. One thinks they easily add gun safety to their portfolio, and what a difference they could make.

According to NGVAC’s analysis of a Johns Hopkins Center for GunPolicy and Research study of the rise in gun homicides when Missouri repealed its background check Universal background checks would reduce gun homicides by 2,000 lost lives per year,

Polling shows that 91 percent of Americans, including 74 percent of NRA members want universal background checks. Given these numbers, refusing to support universal background checks is not only a disgraceful moral abdication, but an incredibly ill-thought-out business decision.

To quote my friends, the Rev. Matthew Crebbin, Senior Pastor of Newtown Congregational Church and co-chair of NVCCR, and Rabbi Shaul Praver of the Newtown Synagogue,  “We can no longer let corporate America stand on the sidelines ignoring their ethical and moral responsibilities. We have seen where that gets us, with yet another slaughter of our children in Santa Barbara. By refusing to support universal background checks, Hallmark has turned its back on gun victims, as well as the American people.”

Over 5,000 fathers lose their lives to gun homicides each year, according to NGVAC’s analysis of CDC and FBI data. This figure does not include the number of fathers who have lost their children to gun violence, like myself, who can no longer celebrate another Father’s Day with their loved ones.

That’s why NVCCR and NGVAC are asking the public not to buy Hallmarkcards for Father’s Day. Instead we ask that you give a custom designed NGVAC Shattered Heart™ Father’s Day card, which can be downloaded free or sent electronically.

The truth is, if corporations were willing to get behind our families’ right to public safety, something 9 out of every 10 of their customers supports, we would have universal background checks tomorrow. Hallmark could have been a leader on this issue, but instead Mr. Hall’ chosen to be on the wrong side of history.

But he can’t hide behind a talking point. His customers understand that our lives are more important than his platitudes.

Fineman is CEO and president of National Gun Victims Action Council.



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