Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence at Events
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As of this writing, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history (Oct. 2017 Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, in which 59 people were killed) took place at an event. Other mass shootings in recent years have also occurred at events: a movie premiere, a garlic festival, an employee gathering. Mass shooters find target-rich environments where people gather: schools, places of worship, nightclubs, and events.
Gun violence, and mass shootings in particular, pose an existential threat to the meetings and events industry. In addition to death and injury of our event attendees, they also pose a significant economic risk to our businesses, and the livelihoods of the people they employ.
The ‘duty of care’ principle calls for event organizers to do whatever is reasonably feasible to safeguard the well-being of event attendees, staff, and other stakeholders. When thinking of all the potential things that could go wrong, surely nothing would be worse than mass murder at an event.
Business events contribute over $325 billion in direct spending in the United States, are attended by over 250 million people, and account for nearly 2.5 million jobs (source: 2017 Events Industry Council study). Thus far, mass shootings have largely avoided business events, however it’s not hard to picture the ramifications of that happening.
If a mass shooting were to take place at a major banking conference, for example, the hosting organization would face lawsuits, horrific publicity, and the devastation of lives lost under their watch in the most brutal fashion. All events would suddenly have a much less attractive risk/reward calculus for that company’s executives.
Other companies would follow suit and likely cancel or dramatically curtail their own events. Those that did move forward would be subject to major drops in attendance, sponsors pulling out, and a far more muted attendee experience. [“The AIG Effect” proves it doesn’t take much to mar the optics of events for business leaders.] And though we are sadly used to regular shootings in this country, attendees from outside the U.S. will start re-thinking coming to events here. In fact, more countries are already issuing advisory warnings about the risks of gun violence when traveling to the U.S. The events industry could take years to recover.
Further, events would start to incur significantly higher security costs, due to additional guards, metal detectors, physical barriers, surveillance cameras, etc. Registration lists may have to be scrutinized more carefully. Tighter security for suppliers at venue loading docks would slow the load-in and setup phases of events, requiring longer rental periods. The small armies of catering and event staff commonly utilized may have to undergo background checks. Insurance for venues, hosts and vendors would increase.
Our industry is doing what it can: many meeting and event organizers have already implemented enhanced security procedures and practice active shooter drills. However, we cannot solve this problem alone and the current system is unsustainable. We need Congress to do its part and pass common sense gun safety legislation. In particular, we urge you to:
- Institute universal background checks, by having the Senate pass the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 8), which passed the House of Representatives on February 27, 2019. This closes the ‘gun show loophole’ which exempts private sales from standard background checks, and has the support of 90% of the American public. (Source: Fox News Poll).
- Reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban (which also covers high-capacity magazines) which expired in 2004. Weapons of war should be reserved for the military, police and other properly trained security forces. 70% of Americans support this. (Source: POLITICO/Morning Consult poll)
This does not preclude taking other steps, but we feel that any successful solution to reducing gun violence at events starts with these two initiatives, both of which enjoy broad, and bipartisan, public support.
We cannot wait until yet another mass shooting occurs at an event. The time to act is now. The safety of our attendees, and the livelihoods of the millions of workers in our industry, depend on our ability to produce safe and secure special events.
[List currently in formation. Check back soon for pending additions.]
• Howard Givner, Founder & CEO, Event Leadership Institute
• Kevin White, Founder & Chief Strategist, XPL; International Past President, ILEA
• Stuart Ruff-Lyon, International Chair-Elect, PCMA
• Joan Eisenstodt, Principal & Chief Strategist, Eisenstodt Associates
• Dawn Penfold, President, MeetingJobs
• Maureen Ryan-Fable, Group CEO & CEO Americas, FIRST
• Adam Sloyer, Co-Founder & CEO, Sequence
• Dan Berger, Founder & CEO, Social Tables/Cvent
• Andrea Michaels, President, Extraordinary Events
• Ryan Simonetti, Co-founder & CEO, Convene
• Tony Lorenz, CEO, PRA; Member, Board of Trustees, PCMA Foundation
• Jeff Guberman, CEO, McVeigh Global Meetings & Events
• Josh McCall, Chairman & CEO, Jack Morton Worldwide
• Daniele Menache, Managing Director & Global Head of Events, Alliance Bernstein
• David Kliman, Owner, The Kliman Group; International Past Chairman, MPI
• Annette Gregg, SVP Experience, MPI
• Trevor Hanks, Managing Partner, 360 Destination Group
• Joe Fijiol, Managing Partner, 360 Destination Group
PCMA = Professional Convention Management Association
MPI = Meeting Professionals International
ILEA = International Live Events Association
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