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Why 3 Major Companies Decided to Take a Stand on Gun Violence

October 22, 2019, 10:51 PM UTC

What do the executives at Citi, Levi Strauss, and Dick’s Sporting Goods have in common? They’ve all willingly stepped into one of America’s most controversial issues to combat the gun violence epidemic.

A trio of executives—Citi Global Chief Brand Officer Carla Hassan, Levi Strauss SVP and Chief Communications Officer Kelly McGinnis, and Dick’s Sporting Goods President Lauren Hobart—explained their respective companies’ decisions to lead on this politically fraught issue during Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women summit in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

Dick’s Sporting Goods made waves earlier this month when it announced that, on top of discontinuing assault-style rifle sales, the company had actually destroyed about $5 million worth of such weapons so that they wouldn’t end up on the private market.

The company is a prominent firearms seller—but began taking a stronger stance after the Sandy Hook massacre that left 20 young children and six adults dead in 2012. That’s when Dick’s quietly removed AR-15 semi-automatic rifles from stores across the country. The dedication to what the firm considers “common sense” gun laws only deepened in the wake of cascading mass shootings, including the 2018 attack at a high school in Parkland, Fla.

“We ended up not making a big statement after Sandy Hook,” said Hobart. “After Parkland, we realized at that point we had to take action. It became a very personal movement for us.”

Hobart noted that the company’s decision to discontinue assault-style weapons sales, prohibit those under 21 from purchasing any firearms, and physically destroy guns galvanized significant backlash. It was also a big financial hit, costing the company about a quarter billion dollars in sales.

Dick’s is the most intimately involved with the firearms business of the three companies. But Levi Strauss and Citi have also taken a stand.

Citi, for instance, is refusing to do business with commercial clients who sells guns to people who haven’t passed a background check, said Hassan. And Levi Strauss is corralling a band of corporations to encourage lawmakers to pass gun violence legislation. Levi’s McGinnis says there are now 240 companies that have signed on to the effort.

At the end of the day, however, the panelists agreed that there’s only so much the business community can do.

“Ninety percent of Americans support background checks,” said Hobart. “Lawmakers have to act.”

More must-read stories from Fortune’s MPW Summit:

—How a corporate board can engage on company culture
—The ‘sisterhood’ isn’t working for all women in business—yet
—These reps want to make Congress work better by electing more women—to both parties
Old Navy CEO says inclusivity is key to the brand’s growth, now and post spinoff
—Anita Hill calls on candidates to address gender violence
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