Cruz warns corporate CEOs to stay out of 'divisive' gun control debate

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzLawmakers spar over surveillance flight treaty with Russia Senators voice support for Iran protesters but stop short of taking action Prisons chief: FBI investigating whether 'criminal enterprise' played role in Epstein death MORE (R-Texas) on Thursday warned that corporate CEOs are making a mistake by wading in the charged political debate over gun control in Washington.

“I don’t think it’s a positive thing to see big corporations shifting their focus from their customers and actually doing what they were created to do into trying to become political players on divisive social issues,” Cruz said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

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Cruz made his comments in response to a letter signed by 145 prominent CEOs urging the Senate to pass a bill requiring background checks on all gun sales as well as a so-called red flag law, which would empower law enforcement officials to confiscate guns from individuals judged to be a danger to themselves or others.

Cruz said he thinks the CEOs are more motivated by a desire to win approval from their “country club” friends than a full understanding of gun violence and public policy.

“This is about social signaling at the country club,” he said. 

The group of CEOs wrote Thursday that they are getting into the debate “because we have a responsibility and obligation to stand up for the safety of our employees, customers and all Americans in the communities we serve across the country.” 

“There are steps Congress can and must take to prevent and reduce gun violence. We need our lawmakers to support common-sense gun laws that could prevent tragedies like these,” the CEOs wrote in their letter to the Senate.

The signatories included Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb; Steve Pagliuca, the co-chairman of Bain Capital; Ethan Brown, the CEO of Beyond Meat; Roger Lynch, the CEO of Condé Nast; Edward Stack, the CEO of DICK’S Sporting Goods; and Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Square and Twitter. 

Cruz said that corporate executives who dive into political debates often don’t know what they’re talking about.

He recalled a recent effort by banks to play politics.

“We have seen in recent months and years, for example, some big banks trying to use their economic power to defund politically disfavored groups. That’s not the job of a bank,” he said. 

Bank of America, for example, announced in April that it would no longer do business with companies that manufacture AR-15 semi-automatic rifles or other firearms that are sometimes characterized as assault weapons.

“I will note with at least one of those banks that came out with one of those oh-so-brave corporate letters, when I sat down with their leadership and actually asked them about it, the people who wrote the letter didn’t know the first thing about the substance,” Cruz said.

Cruz recalled that when he asked a bank engaged in a business boycott of companies that manufacture certain types of semi-automatic rifles to explain its action, the executives he met with couldn’t even define what made a firearm an “assault rifle.”

“I asked what seemed like a fairly reasonable follow-up question … I said, ‘Can you tell me what’s an assault weapon?’ I tell you the people who wrote the letter had absolutely no idea,” Cruz said.

Cruz said he’s highly skeptical whether the CEOs who signed Thursday’s letter to the Senate have a strong grasp of the issues being debated.

“I promise you the people signing this letter they don’t know any of the details of background checks or red flags either,” he said.