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Bloomberg gun group hits Kroger with six-figure ad campaign, its first against a corporate gun policy

Hundreds of demonstrators march in June across the Brooklyn Bridge to call for tougher gun control laws. Moms Demand Action is behind the push against Kroger’s policies. (John Minchillo/AP)
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Moms Demand Action is launching what it describes as its first ad campaign against a corporate gun policy.

The group, a campaign of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety, is running print and digital “homepage takeover” ads in half-a-dozen newspapers criticizing the gun policy at grocery retail chain the Kroger Co. The chain defers to state and local laws for its policy on whether customers may carry guns in its stores.

The six-figure Moms Demand Action campaign will feature print and digital ads in USA Today, the Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News and Houston Chronicle. Print-only ads will run in the Tennessean. The group will also feature its ads, reproduced below, on a billboard in Cincinnati, home to Kroger’s corporate headquarters. The chain is the nation’s second-largest retailer behind Walmart, according to the National Retail Foundation, an industry trade association.

“In all states, but especially those where gun laws are lax, businesses have an obligation to protect their employees and patrons,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement.

A chain spokesman said in an e-mail that Kroger’s policy to abide by state and local laws is “in practice identical” to many other retailers. “We know that our customers are passionate on both sides of this issue and we trust them to be responsible in our stores,” Keith Dailey, Kroger’s
director of media relations said in an e-mail.

The ads contrast Kroger’s policy on carrying guns with its stance on other behavior in its stores. In each, an individual carrying a long firearm stands next to another individual — a girl eating an ice cream cone, a boy with a skateboard, a shirtless man — alongside text that reads: “One of them isn’t welcome at Kroger. Guess which one.” The group says it has secured more than 115,000 signatures on a petition calling for the chain to prohibit the open carrying of firearms in its stores. (An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the number of signatures.)

Kroger is only the latest business to be targeted by Everytown’s Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America campaign. As the federal government remains deadlocked on gun reform, the group has set its sights on corporate chains. It has also launched a social media campaign — #GROCERIESNOTGUNS — against Kroger’s policy. As part of that campaign, individuals have posted photos of receipts from other stores with that hashtag written on them.

Moms Demand Action has in the past year shamed Facebook, Instagram, Chipotle, Sonic, Chili’s and Target over their gun policies. It maintains a short list of corporations worth either praise or pressure for their gun policies, with the aforementioned businesses now considered praiseworthy, along with Jack in the Box, Costco, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Starbucks and others. It singles out Staples and Dick’s Sporting Goods as businesses that need to be pressured to change their policies along with Kroger.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg pledged to spend $50 million this election cycle through Everytown to promote gun control policies. The powerful gun rights group the National Rifle Association has since launched its own multimillion-dollar campaign in which it targets Bloomberg as a kind of political bogeyman.

Voters in several states have considered or will consider changes to gun policies this year. In Washington, dueling measures would ban or require universal background checks. In Alabama, a measure would amend the state constitution to “provide that every citizen has a fundamental right to bear arms and that any restriction on this right would be subject to strict scrutiny.” And in Missouri, voters already approved a similar amendment last month.

(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the number of signatures above.)