American individuals cant compete with the gun lobby, but American corporations can.
American individuals can't compete with the gun lobby, but American corporations can. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

After each mass shooting, whether it be in a movie theatre, a music festival, or a kindergarten class, the public demands action. And each time, politicians fail to listen, apparently more afraid of making enemies of the gun lobby than they are of losing public support. If this madness is ever to end, something must change, and since those in power have utterly failed to heed the American public, the majority of which favors sensible gun control, maybe it's time for those in business, instead, to step up. As we've seen in other legislative battles, this can and has worked, and there's a recent example down south.

In the last three years, anti-trans legislation has been proposed, and sometimes passed, in a handful of states. North Carolina is one of those states, and House Bill 2, which required people to use the bathroom of their sex at birth in public facilities, was signed into law in 2016 by then-Governor Pat McCrory. This would prove a costly mistake.

McCrory, before taking the governorship in 2013, had been the moderate, generally popular mayor of Charlotte, the state's largest city, for 14 years. But once in the capitol, he took a sharp turn to the right. There was plenty to hate about the guy—his strangling of state environmental regulations for the benefit of Duke Energy, his major donor and former employer, comes to mind—but it was HB2 that would ultimately be McCrory's undoing. He was voted out of office last November, six months after signing HB2, even while Republicans maintained control of the General Assembly and Trump beat Clinton by roughly 4 points.

North Carolina is not the most liberal state. It's not Texas, but it's not California, either. Still, people hated HB2, and they hated McCrory, its baby-faced poster boy, for defending it. Only 30 percent of voters supported the bill, but that's not necessarily because North Carolinians are especially progressive on trans issues: Rather, the bill—which was repealed by McCrory's replacement, although not in a manner than satisfied everybody—could have cost the state an estimated $3.7 billion by 2028 as corporations, events, and entertainers took their business elsewhere. And many did in the aftermath of HB2, including PayPal, the NBA, Bruce Springsteen, and dozens of others. Analysts say that's a big part of why McCrory lost re-election. And other states paid attention: Texas—which is Texas—scrapped a bathroom bill earlier this year when corporations started to push back. Money is a powerful motivator.

The fight for LGBTQ equality has been one of the most successful social movements in American history. In just a few decades, queer people have gone from being social pariahs (who couldn't legally have sex in many states) to being celebrated. Corporations (and Hollywood) noticed, and occasionally even influenced that change. Whether they are doing it out of the goodness of their corporate hearts or doing it for good press, today, both old behemoths like AT&T and new behemoths like Google don't just sponsor Pride parades, they actively fight against bad legislation like HB2. And, like the unions that once ran politics, they have an affect.

Is there something unsettling, if not undemocratic, about corporations engineering political change when marches and petitions and calls to senators so often go unanswered? Yes, certainly. But that's the way it is in this America, and if the public wants to see real, meaningful changes to our gun laws—and polls show that we do—it's time for corporations to treat states with lax gun laws like they would states with bad bathroom laws: Take your business elsewhere. The American voter may not be able to compete with the gun lobby, but American corporations can. Will there be a cost? Sure. But as we saw in North Carolina, pressure from big business can influence not just politicians, but voters themselves. If we are ever going to have sensible gun control in this country, it will take those who actually have power to start exerting it.