Raleigh businesses take a stand.
Tony Cope was shopping with his family at an Apex Target store in 2010. A gunman came in and fatally shot a cashier while Cope hid with his then 6-year-old daughter. Cope’s wife, Susan, and their older daughter fled the store along with dozens of other panicked shoppers.
It wouldn’t be the Raleigh family’s last brush with gun violence.
In 2016, Cope’s older daughter texted him while hiding from a man brandishing a gun who had shown up at a friend’s house where she was hanging out. “She was too afraid to talk [on the phone],” Cope says. “She was texting us because she was hiding in a bathroom closet.”
In both instances, Cope and his family members were physically unharmed. But the traumatic impacts have stayed with them. “My whole family are survivors, we all had to go through this,” Cope says. “It took several years to get my girl to a point where she was solid again. All of us had to live through it.”
Last month, more than 170 Raleigh businesses—including creative services agency Myriad Media, which Cope founded and leads, Trophy Brewing, Citrix, YMCA of the Triangle and York Properties—took a stand against gun violence.
The businesses’ names appeared on a poster hung up in street-front windows around town. A fundraiser at Trophy on Maywood raised around $5,000 for the North Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense; Trophy released a Czech Pilsner, Unchecked, to raise money for Moms Demand Action and, equally as important, community awareness. Local chocolate factory Videri donated a dollar from sales of their chocolate bars to raise money, too.
“The idea was to get Raleigh businesses to sign on against gun violence, which they really have never done before,” says David Meeker, the co-owner of Trophy Brewing and Carpenter Development Group, another business that participated. “When businesses get involved, it makes it a mainstream issue. It could turn the tide. If big companies push politicians to do something, maybe they will actually pass a [gun control] bill. The big idea is to get names on a poster, make it really easy for businesses to sign on.”
In North Carolina and nationwide, gun safety organizations including Moms Demand Action and others are pushing for measures gun control advocates believe will reduce incidents of gun violence and mass shootings. These measures include expanded background checks on the federal level and Extreme Risk Protection Order laws, also known as “red flag laws,” where police and family members can petition state courts to evaluate people at risk of harming themselves or others and potentially order them to surrender their firearms. A bipartisan background check bill has long been awaiting a hearing in the U.S. Senate; in North Carolina, gun safety bills with ERPO provisions are under review in legislative committees.
“Nationally, 97 percent of American voters want a more comprehensive background checks bill,” says Madhavi Krevat, a spokesperson for the North Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. “A majority of Republicans want it, a majority of gun owners want it. So we are very grateful to the businesses who have signed on to make their voices heard and let lawmakers know we want these common sense gun regulations passed.”
Myriad’s Cope says, aside from the fundraising, he’s most pleased to see the coalition-building spreading to other areas where activists want to take a similar approach. “There’s a Chapel Hill Against Gun Violence event this spring and we’re in coversations with four or five other states who want this approach,” Cope says. “That is everything.”