'You don't need a gun' to try on jeans: Levi's CEO asks customers not to carry firearms in stores

The Washington Post

Levi's jeans might remind you of cowboys — that is, after all, one of the company's signature cuts of denim — but you won't likely find anyone with a six-shooter in one of the company's stores.

Levi Strauss & Co. Chief Executive Chip Bergh posted an open letter Wednesday requesting that shoppers not carry guns, even with a permit, into any Levi's location.

The CEO of the San Francisco company said a customer recently carried a firearm into one of its stores, where it inadvertently fired, injuring its carrier. He did not specify where this occurred.

"So, 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," Bergh’s letter said. "Of course, authorized members of law enforcement are an exception."

In particular, Bergh noted that the company has stores in Paris; Nice, France; and Orlando, Fla.; and has European headquarters in Brussels. All of these cities have recently been affected by mass attacks that left many dead.

In Orlando, Paris and Brussels, firearms were used to compound the carnage. In June, for example, a man in Orlando killed 49 people with an assault-style rifle; it was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Bergh did not technically ban guns in Levi's stores: He called it "a request not a mandate."

"We sincerely hope responsible gun owners will respect our position," he said.

The note was posted as 2016 wraps up en route to surpass last year's record number of checks on prospective gun buyers by the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which Fortune called "a good proxy for gun sales." According to the FBI, there have been 22,206,233 background checks this year through October, compared with a total of 23,141,970 for all of 2015.

Levi's isn't the first large company to request its customers leave their firearms at home. Whataburger, Chipotle and Panera have all made similar requests.

Most notable was Starbucks. After the coffee company made that request in 2013, gun rights advocates began threatening to boycott its brew. For this reason, Bergh told Fortune, he sought counsel from Starbucks before publishing his own request. His conclusion was that "most boycott threats around this topic ultimately blow over."

Bergh said he knows the brand could lose some customers, but he was seeking to be respectful to all.

That hasn't stopped people from voicing their anger on Twitter.

Several users made references to masculinity to insult the brand. More than one tweet, including language that isn't fit for publication here, were anti-Semitic. More than one said, "Avoid these Jew jeans."

In the end, Bergh said, the request is about safety, not politics.

"It's not an anti-2nd Amendment thing," Bergh told Fortune. "You don't need a gun to try on a pair of jeans."

Andrews writes for the Washington Post. 

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