Ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s is galvanizing its millions of customers in a new campaign to lobby for tougher security measures after last month’s mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York.
Christopher Miller, the ice cream company’s head of global activism, told CNBC in an interview that the company called on its 8 million Facebook fans and 515,000 Twitter followers to lobby lawmakers to strengthen gun safety laws.
Ben & Jerry’s gun activism comes as business leaders urge Congress to change gun laws following several mass shootings, including one that killed 19 children and two teachers at a school in Uvalde, Texas. Billionaire Elon Musk told CNBC he wants a “tight” gun background check. In an open letter published in the Dallas Morning News, other Texas-based business leaders called for more background checks, red flag laws and to raise the minimum age to buy a gun to 21.
Ben & Jerry’s was founded by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in the late 1970s and is headquartered in Vermont with stores around the world. Since then, Cohen and Greenfield have been strong political advocates for a wide range of policies, including gun laws, voting rights and health care. Unilever is their parent company. Financier Nelson Peltz, a Republican supporter, recently joined its board.
When “legislation arrives, we will definitely encourage our fans to reach out to their decision makers to support [gun safety] legislation,” Miller told CNBC to explain the company’s plans to support the gun proposals being discussed in Congress.
The House of Representatives is due to vote this week on a gun safety bill that raises the purchase age for semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21, limits the size of gun ammunition magazines and provides standards for the safe storage of firearms. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., has yet to vote on gun safety legislation.
Miller also said the ice cream maker plans to cut ties with salespeople who have worked with the gun industry.
“We will ensure that in the future we do not work with industry facilitators,” Miller said after being asked about one of his outside law firms, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, which has a significant tobacco, alcohol and firearms practice. “I think we will definitely be more careful about the type of service providers we work with in the future.”
Representatives for Shook, Hardy & Bacon did not return requests for comment. After contacting the law firm about its work for Ben & Jerry’s, sections of its website showing past work for the Vermont company and details about its larger tobacco, alcohol and guns appeared to have been removed.
Ben & Jerry’s has publicly slammed lawmakers for their inaction after the fatal shooting in Uvalde and Buffalo.
“This type of gun violence in America must be stopped. But our leaders are more sympathetic to the gun lobby than to the grieving families of countless victims. Their inaction to address gun violence is itself an action and a act of violence,” the company’s statement read after Uvalde’s shooting. The shooting in Buffalo left 10 dead and three injured.
Ben & Jerry’s called on customers to contact their “member of Congress and demand action to end gun violence,” and encouraged them to ask lawmakers to support a ban on assault-style military weapons and magazine clips. large capacity, according to the press release. The company plans to keep up the pressure from online lobbying as bills and solutions are debated in Congress, Miller said.
“We have a digital action platform that allows people to make calls on Capitol Hill. This allows them to send emails to their governors, state legislators, and members of Congress. allows people to tweet and post messages on social media to their elected officials,” Miller said.
This isn’t the first time Ben & Jerry’s has gone political in its fight for tougher gun laws.
Miller told CNBC the company supports gun laws passed by Vermont state lawmakers in 2018. At the time, Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed legislation that tightens gun laws. Vermont firearms, including buyers having to pass required background checks.
The company’s political activism has come with certain costs.
After Ben & Jerry’s decided to stop selling ice cream in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his administration decided to stop contracting with parent company Unilever and its subsidiaries.