When Walmart speaks, people listen. So when executives at the giant retailer recently asked customers to no longer openly display their guns on the premises, lots of people took notice.
Walmart can hardly be stereotyped as a bastion of coastal elites. CEO Doug McMillon’s memo announcing the policy noted that the store has a long heritage of “serving responsible hunters and sportsmen and women” and will continue to do so.
Successful retailers are sensitive to the marketplace. If Walmart officials are listening to their customers, then those customers are as likely to live in places such as Texas and Mississippi and Louisiana as in New York or California.
It was in El Paso, Texas, of course, where 22 people were shot dead inside one of the company’s stores on a busy August Saturday. It was in Southaven, Mississippi, where two associates were recently killed by a suspended co-worker.
And it was in Baton Rouge that a fight between two customers, one armed with a gun and one with scissors, set off a frantic scene and rumors of yet another active shooter situation. It turned out that nobody was shot, thankfully, but the situation was terrifying, and the panic was itself dangerous.
The new policy is not a hard ban but a respectful request, as the company put it, that customers in open carry states no longer carry firearms into Walmart and Sam’s Club stores unless they’re authorized law enforcement officers.
In a memo, McMillon cited the proliferation of mass shootings and concerns from both customers and employees, and also the fact that some customers have taken to “attempting to make a statement and test our response” by going into stores carrying weapons “in a way that frightened or concerned our associates and customers.” Others with less confrontational objectives have inadvertently prompted evacuations and calls to law enforcement, he wrote.
“We believe the opportunity for someone to misinterpret a situation, even in open carry states, could lead to tragic results,” McMillon wrote.
We’ve supported sensible measures to combat gun violence, including the lapsed federal ban on assault-style weapons. Walmart too has been seeking balance; it previously stopped selling military-style rifles and handguns, raised the age limit to purchase firearms and slightly tightened background check procedures. McMillon also recently announced that Walmart would stop selling certain types of ammunition that can be used in large-capacity clips on military-style weapons, as well as ammunition for handguns.
Walmart’s move doesn’t endanger the Second Amendment because other retailers are free to sell legal ammo. We hope Louisiana’s politicians don’t overreact, as a number of them did when they banned certain banks from state bond sale business because of the banks’ policies on guns. Members of the public can decide for themselves whether they are comfortable with Walmart’s practices.
McMillon concluded his memo by pointing out that “the status quo is unacceptable.” Hopefully people on both sides of the gun divide can agree on that.