Can Toms Shoes Founder Blake Mycoskie End America’s Gun Violence?

Blake Mycoskie, the Toms Shoes founder who has given away free footwear, eyewear and water to those in need, is taking on a new cause: gun violence.

For Mycoskie, who on Monday announced on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” that his company will put considerable financial backing and social media power behind the initiative, it marks a radical shift in the company’s giving model.

While the company has been active in social issues since its founding in 2006 — for every product a consumer purchases, the company gives a similar item away — this is the first time the California firm has entered into the hotly debated issue of gun control.

But for Mycoskie, a serial entrepreneur, it was a necessary campaign — and one he believes other businesses will rally around.

“We are not just taking a stand to end gun violence together, but we are announcing an evolution to our giving model with a new platform for social change,” he told FN exclusively. “This move will allow us to continue to give shoes to children around the world, but also to make significant contributions to local organizations working to solve some of the biggest issues of our time. We are so grateful to all of our wholesale partners and customers who have stood with us for 12 years as we’ve [jointly] created a better tomorrow. And we believe this new platform will allow our partners’ customer to connect to the Toms brand in a more meaningful way.”

For starters, Toms plans to invest $5 million into organizations across the U.S. that are working to curb gun violence “through various tactics including programming in communities of color, mental health, research and policy, suicide prevention and more.”

The effort from Mycoskie comes at a good time: There have been more than 300 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2018, according to the nonprofit group Gun Violence Archive, which tracks shootings nationwide.

Mycoskie — who decided to put his plan into action after the Nov. 7 college-bar mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif., which is a short distance from his home and the Toms corporate campus — joins other business leaders who have called for stronger gun control measures.

After the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead, Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO Ed Stack urged lawmakers to enact gun reform that bans assault-style firearms, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, an attachment that allows semi-automatic weapons to fire at a faster clip. “We have to help solve the problem that’s in front of us. Gun violence is an epidemic that’s taking the lives of too many people, including the brightest hope for the future of America — our kids,” Stack said in a statement at the time.

And just last month, billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would personally match every financial donation made to Everytown for Gun Safety, the organization he founded in 2014 that advocates for gun control.

In addition to the $5 million pledge, Mycoskie said he will make Toms’ social media resources available to consumers. For instance, the company website will help connect consumers with their local congressional leaders, urging them to pass universal background checks and voice support for change.

What’s more, Toms will use other digital resources, its own stores and social media channels to promote advocacy.

“We are ready to do our part and are asking all of our supporters to join us,” Mycoskie said. “Our mission at Toms has been to create a better tomorrow. Over the past 12 years, we’ve given away 86 million pairs of shoes, provided 600,000 sight restorations and helped secure 600,000 weeks of safe water to many communities. We are still committed to those endeavors and believe that creating a better future also means helping end gun violence today.”

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