Hobby Lobby, the arts-and-crafts giant whose evangelical Christian owners won a landmark religious-freedom ruling in U.S. Supreme Court several years back, is now under fire for selling signs that a customer alleges “glorify and encourage gun violence,” with some calling for a boycott of the chain.
Shopper Leslie Ruffing, 39, was at her local Hobby Lobby in Aurora, Ill. when she came across two gun-themed wall decorations. One of the metal signs read “We don’t call 911,” framed by two opposing pistols with their barrels crossed, and with bullets embedded in the number “1.” The other yellow metal placard says “NO TRESPASSIN’,” is riddled with fake bullet holes and warns that “Violators will be shot! Survivors will be shot again!”
Ruffing, who identifies as a “gun violence prevention advocate” on her Twitter account, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she was “instantly filled with disgust and anger” when seeing the firearm paraphernalia. She believes that by selling the signs, Hobby Lobby, which does not sell firearms in its stores, is going beyond affirming second amendment rights by selling products that appear to “encourage” and “glorify” gun violence.
“This type of ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ mentality is incredibly dangerous to our society and leads to innocent people dying,” Ruffing says. “I’d like to know how they can justify putting profits over people at a time in our country where we are experiencing more mass shootings than days this year.”
The customer says she immediately reported the signs to an unidentified manager on duty and asked that her complaint be elevated to the corporate office. On the same day, Ruffing took to social media to share her disgust with the gun-themed decorations.“Hobby Lobby, I’d love to know why on earth you think it’s OK to sell merchandise that blatantly glorifies and encourages gun violence,” Ruffing tweeted on Sept. 30. “It’s 2019. Let’s do better.”
Neither Hobby Lobby nor the NRA have responded to multiple requests for comment from Yahoo Lifestyle.
. @HobbyLobby I’d love to know why on earth you think it’s OK to sell merchandise that blatantly glorifies and encourages gun violence.
I echoed my disgust to the manger on duty who agreed to elevate my concern to your corporate office.
It’s 2019. Let’s do better. pic.twitter.com/HkCeja8wjT
— LDR (@LRuff11) September 30, 2019
The photos of the signs on Twitter outraged many, with some adding that they would be boycotting the store until further notice. “So, not only does Hobby Lobby allow open carry, they also glorify gun violence and call it decoration? No thanks,” tweeted Lisa Hendricks, a gun violence survivor and volunteer for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “I’ll continue to support businesses that value public safety.”
A gun advocacy organization called the Second Amendment Foundation, meanwhile, has dismissed what it’s calling a “silly complaint.”
“People that have mailboxes that look like guns and bumper stickers that promote firearms ownership — and what you sent me pictures of — are [designed] to be humorous,” Dave Workman tells Yahoo Lifestyle, adding anyone taking issue with the signs sold at Hobby Lobby “doesn’t seem to have a sense of humor.”
“The people who buy stuff like this, it’s just a novelty, and they haven’t hurt anybody. Trying to demonize having anything to do with firearms because of those instances is kind of ridiculous,” says Workman.
Ruffing’s criticism comes in the midst of a renewed call for stricter nationwide gun-control measures, such as “red flag” gun laws, after deadly mass shootings that came in quick succession on Aug. 3 — in an El Paso, Tex., Walmart that left 22 dead, followed by another fatal incident in downtown Dayton, Ohio, just 14 hours later.
Following the Walmart shooting, gun control advocates began calling for more corporate responsibility from Walmart and other companies, prompting giants Walmart and Kroger to ask its customers to stop openly carrying firearms in its stores.
Hobby Lobby did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment about open carry policies in more than 850 stores nationwide. While the family-owned Christian company has no public ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA), Hobby Lobby sells NRA merchandise and products with gun-rights messaging.
The company previously made headlines for refusing to provide women’s contraception, including the “morning-after pill” and intrauterine devices, to its 37,500 employees, alleging that Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act contraceptive mandate violated the religious freedom of the company and its Oklahoma-based owners, who are anti-abortion. The Obama administration sued Hobby Lobby for refusing to comply with the mandate, but, in a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the craft chain store’s argument for religious freedom.
Given the company’s devout religious beliefs, Ruffing says she was especially taken aback by the products that appear to encourage violence. “For a corporation that prides itself as a pro-life organization, going so far as to deny their employees access to affordable birth control, I simply cannot understand how they can justify selling these products,” she says. “There is nothing pro-life about encouraging gun violence.”
She wasn't the first to raise concerns. Shortly after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February 2018, a Christian mom named Jess Stonefield filed complaints to the Hobby Lobby corporate office over similar items she saw at a store location in California.
“At that time, many people were asking major companies in the U.S. to stand up against the NRA. I didn't understand why everyone was giving Hobby Lobby a free pass,” Stonefield tells Yahoo Lifestyle, adding that she admires Hobby Lobby CEO David Green’s philanthropic work and has read his books.
However, Stonefield, 42, says that seeing merchandise that she believes endorses gun violence made her question the integrity of the company. The mother of two later wrote an opinion piece on Medium, encouraging Christians like herself to boycott the arts-and-crafts chain for selling NRA merchandise and products that “promote and romanticize gun violence.”
“I was angered that Christianity has been politicized for the NRA's gain for so long and that people continue to promote this false ‘god and guns’ concept,” Stonefield explains. “Jesus never would have promoted the use of guns for any reason, especially in a store where kids frequently shop for hobby supplies.”
While it is unclear whether or not the manager Ruffing spoke to elevated her concerns about the decorations to Hobby Lobby corporate, and the Aurora Hobby Lobby location declined to comment on the matter, Stonefield says she has filed a formal complaint with Hobby Lobby’s corporate office on her own. She has not received a response.
“We’re scared to go church, to the movies, to concerts, scared to send our children to schools,” Ruffing says. “Those who contribute to this dangerous gun culture should be held accountable.”
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