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Guns in America: Thank You Walmart

Published in ChicagoNow, September 5, 2019

Yesterday, Walmart took some steps that our Senate and President have refused to take, despite so many tragic gun deaths and mass shootings.

  • It will discontinue selling handgun ammunition

  • Shoppers are no longer welcome to openly carry their guns, even in states that allow this practice.

  • Short barrel rifle ammunition, including the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber sometimes used in high-capacity magazines on assault-style weapons, will no longer be sold.

  • Walmart will focus its gun inventory on hunting rifles and shotguns and related ammunition.

These decisions may impact the company’s bottom line, as Walmart reduces its share of ammunition sales from 20% to between 6-9%. On the other hand, maybe I’ll venture into Walmart or shop more often at Sam’s Club to show my gratitude.

Of course, the NRA was outraged and highly critical of these changes, but Walmart CEO Doug McMillon explained,

“We encourage our nation’s leaders to move forward and strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger… We do not sell military-style rifles, and we believe the reauthorization of the Assault Weapons ban should be debated to determine its effectiveness. We must also do more, as a country, to understand the root causes that lead to this type of violent behavior.”

Bravo, Mr. McMillon. Another company to jump on the gun sanity bandwagon was Kroger. Last year, the Ohio-based company stopped selling guns in its Fred Meyer stores. The grocery chain also asked that patrons not to openly carry firearms in its stores. In response to the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Florida, Ed Stack, CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, met with members of the bereaved community. Dick’s had sold a gun to the shooter. Influenced by the horror of the killings, Stack announcing that his company would stop selling assault-style weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks. He also announced that Dick’s would not sell firearms to people under 21. More places for me to shop.

Recently, a store that sells ballet apparel, Bullet Pointe, decided it was time to rebrand itself. Seems that many people who purchased their merchandise no longer wanted to receive a dance skirt in a bullet-style wrapper. I wrote about this in a post America’s Gun Culture: Ballet with a Bullet in which I said,

“At the risk of sounding like a snowflake, I hate the idea of selling ballet skirts wrapped to look like bullets. I removed the packaging and just put them in a gift box with tissue to give my granddaughter for her birthday. Ballet and bullets don’t make sense to her, and she’s pretty upset about school shootings these days. I didn’t have time to return the skirts and buy them elsewhere, but that will be my last purchase from this store unless they change the name.”

After they rebrand, I will once again purchase from this store.

This is one avenue we, as consumers, can take when our representatives in Congress do not represent us on gun safety legislation. In a poll of likely 2020 voters, 78 percent — and 70 percent of Republicans — have moved toward supporting stronger gun laws. A May Quinnipiac poll found that 94 percent of voters favored universal background checks, including at gun shows and private sales. A strong majority also favor an assault weapon ban. In the GQR survey, a 65 percent majority backed a ban on assault weapons. Most of us would also like to see red flag laws, gun licensing, and bans on high-capacity magazines.

Of course, the arguments we hear are that no one law would have prevented the most recent mass shooting. While that is true, the issue has to be seen in a broader way. It is a public health issue. Guns in the home are more likely to lead to suicide and accidental injury than to protect people. Every weekend, many innocent people die as collateral damage in the gang violence that plagues poor and under-resourced urban communities. Even cities like Chicago that have relatively strict gun laws can’t escape the easy access to guns from surrounding states. And yet, our current administration will not fund research into how to curb our epidemic of gun violence.

There was a time when our government denied cigarettes were harmful. I guess you could say the attitude was that cigarettes didn’t kill, it was the people who smoked them who killed themselves and others through secondary exposure. Eventually, science prevailed. Banning smoking in public places and taxing cigarettes to raise much-needed revenue and discourage people from buying cigarettes worked. While people can still smoke if they want to, it is so unusual to see this in public that my grandkids stare when they encounter a smoker.

Why not take the same approach to guns? Right now, Mitch McConnell refuses to put even the most non-controversial gun safety legislation passed by the House on the floor of the Senate for a vote. The excuse is that the president has to promise to sign the bill before he will go to the trouble. And we all know that Trump changes his mind about signing gun safety legislation after one call from his friend Wayne LaPierre at the NRA. So here we sit, with a majority of us wanting our government to “do something” about guns after every mass shooting. We hear about thoughts and prayers. We try to understand what motivated the killer. Maybe it’s white nationalism. Maybe it’s mental illness. Maybe it’s alienation and hatred.

Or maybe it’s the guns, stupid.



by Laurie Levy
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