My business is at 2nd and South. I can’t afford to stay silent on gun violence

My business is located less than a block from where the shooting took place on South Street over the weekend, leaving three dead and 11 wounded. Since that time, my phone and social media have been non-stop with people wondering about my staff and asking if we were OK. Thankfully, the answer is yes: All we saw was people running and crowds.

This isn’t our first brush with gun violence, either. Despite the fact that South Street is normally a happy gathering place for Philadelphians and tourists from all walks of life, in the last three years we have been in business, there have been multiple shootings in our neighborhood. Last summer, someone was shot on our block.

» READ MORE: City shuts down part of South Street for night after mass shooting; at least 5 guns fired in incident that left 3 dead and 11 wounded

Like small business owners everywhere, I always have a lot to worry about as the proprietor of the Queen and Rook Game Cafe — from not knowing how a new dish will be received by customers to making enough in sales to cover payroll each week, and a whole host of other things that were piled onto my plate with the pandemic. But on Saturday, the shooting happened while I had eight staff working, and a few dozen guests were sitting inside the cafe and enjoying our sidewalk seating with food and games. Now, I’m wondering if I need to start worrying about having an active shooter policy, and how to make sure I can keep my customers and staff safe on the job. There’s just no sense in it.

Gun violence has a huge impact on businesses. That’s why I believe that anyone who supports businesses needs to also support gun control.

Even if one were to ignore the intrinsic value of life and assume that a business as an entity doesn’t care about lives and only thinks about the economics of the situation, the risk that gun violence poses to businesses is enormous. The dozens of other businesses in my area and I may take an economic hit if customers avoid the neighborhood (especially after the city closed part of it on Sunday), if staff don’t feel safe enough to come to work, or if we have to start closing early so workers can leave during safer times.

I can’t afford to stay silent on the issue of gun violence.

“I can’t afford to stay silent on the issue of gun violence.”

Edward Garcia

Shootings happen every day in Philadelphia. How many grocery stores and restaurants and barber shops and nail salons and movie theaters have taken a financial hit from having to spend time on active shooter drills or employee policies that detail how to shelter in place in case of a mass shooting, and investigating which grief counseling service would be the best one to use in case of a shooting at work? Or lost customers after a shooting, or because they now have to close early due to gun violence in the neighborhood?

The lack of sensible gun control laws in this country is having a major impact on many of our businesses. Which has led me to this conclusion: to be pro-business requires one to be pro-gun control.

It’s hard to see a business upside to easy access to weapons for 18-year-olds, or hollow point bullets or high-capacity magazines. For all sectors of the economy outside of those that profit — directly or indirectly — from the manufacture or sale of firearms, there is no argument in favor of easy access to guns. On the other side, the disruption caused by gun violence to every aspect of a business is significant.

This isn’t just a position for small businesses to take. Fedex in Indianapolis in 2021, Molson Coors in Milwaukee in 2020, Walmart in El Paso in 2019, YouTube Headquarters in San Bruno in 2018 are all clear examples of the dangers faced by large businesses in a lax gun environment.

This should mean that businesses should be as pro-gun control as it is pro-profit. It means that business trade organizations should have stances on gun control measures. It means business owners should speak to our legislative representatives about gun control the same as we would about taxes or subsidies or economic regulations. All businesses from independent board game cafes to the largest industrial manufacturers should make sure that legislators know that these issues are important. It means that businesses should make advocacy part of what they do; on Friday, the day before the shooting, my cafe hosted a Quizzo night to benefit March for Our Lives, which started after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Legislators have heard from grieving families, traumatized teachers, and endangered law enforcement, and done little to stop the violence. To convince them to act, maybe now they need to hear from the incensed business sector.

Edward Garcia is the owner of Queen & Rook Game Cafe, located near 2nd and South.

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