Levi’s found itself in the crosshairs of one of America’s most controversial issues Thursday after the company’s CEO Chip Bergh asked gun owners to keep firearms out of its stores.
In a note published to Linkden, Bergh said he came to the decision to enact a no-guns policy following an incident at a Levi’s store where a gun inadvertently went off, injuring the customer who was carrying it.
“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. Of course, authorized members of law enforcement are an exception,” wrote Bergh.
Bergh said he entered a period of reflection following the violent attacks this year in Nice, France and Orlando, Fla., and Brussels, Belgium, where Levi’s European headquarters are located.
“I’ve thought more about safety in the past year than in the previous three decades of my career because of how ‘close to home’ so many incidents with guns have come to impacting people working for this company,” he wrote.
Almost as soon as Bergh’s letter was published, gun owners on social media reacted by starting a hashtag to boycott Levi’s.
“Don’t worry @LEVIS I won’t bring my legal firearm into your store because I won’t be coming into your store,” wrote one user.
— Mark W. Engelhardt (@sharkme73) December 1, 2016
— red (@kotuzak) November 30, 2016
— Carrie ❤️America?? (@carrieksada) November 30, 2016
Others, however, expressed support for Bergh’s letter, saying that his stance makes them want to shop at Levi’s more.
“Guns while shopping is ridiculous and makes me very uncomfortable.Thank you, Levi’s,” wrote one user.
https://t.co/XvGgPLWF9x // Guns while shopping is ridiculous and makes me very uncomfortable. Thank you, Levi’s.
— Jami J (@jamij2370) December 1, 2016
love Levis and will be buying more now. Taking A Stance On Weapons In Our Stores – Levi Strauss https://t.co/qj0T57gABN
— Debra McLoughlin (@DBMcLoughlin) December 1, 2016
I think it’s time for new pair of Levis for everyone on my Xmas list. https://t.co/YgW8VBVqLM
— Andy Proctor (@BadAndy924) December 1, 2016
Recognizing that gun laws are different in each state, Bergh clarified that Levi’s position was not a mandate, but rather a polite request to its customers.
“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,” he wrote. “Simply put, firearms don’t belong in either of those settings. 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. “