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SAN FRANCISCO – US denim brand Levi Strauss has joined the debate on gun violence in the US. In a significant move, the company’s CEO Chip Bergh has written an open letter expressing concern about the country’s gun violence epidemic. “While taking a stand can be unpopular with some, doing nothing is no longer an option,” he said. The move by the Levi’s chief is huge for a company which is about as American as they come and which has hitherto not been known for political activism. It will also inevitably invite criticism from the Republican right in the US, large swathes of which steadfastly refuse to accept any link between gun ownership and the vast number of gun related deaths in the US each year.

Bergh said: “As president and CEO of a values-driven company that’s known the world over as a pioneer of the American West and one of the great symbols of American freedom, I take the responsibility of speaking up on the important issues of our day very seriously. We can’t take on every issue. But as business leaders with power in the public and political arenas, we simply cannot stand by silently when it comes to the issues that threaten the very fabric of the communities where we live and work.

“That’s why Levi Strauss & Co. is stepping up our support for gun violence prevention. You may wonder why a company that doesn’t manufacture or sell guns is wading into this issue, but for us, it’s simple. Americans shouldn’t have to live in fear of gun violence. It’s an issue that affects all of us—all generations and all walks of life.”

Levi Strauss & Co. has pledged its support for gun violence prevention in several ways. These include its Safer Tomorrow Fund, established to direct more than US$1m in philanthropic grants from LS&Co. over the next four years to fuel the work of nonprofits and youth activists who are working to end gun violence in America.

Another initiative being promoted is Everytown Business Leaders for Gun Safety. Levi’s is partnering with Everytown for Gun Safety and executives from the business community, including Michael Bloomberg, to “form a coalition of business leaders who believe that business has a critical role to play and a moral obligation to do something about the gun violence epidemic in this country.”

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