Where Politicians Fear to Tread (Editorial)

A curious shift (one of many) has taken place in American politics in the past couple of years. Corporate America has begun taking the lead on political issues. Some examples:

♦ Apple and Eli Lilly, among others, attacking Indiana’s “religious freedom” law.

♦ PayPal canceling plans for a facility in North Carolina to protest that state’s “bathroom bill,” a facility that would have meant an extra $2.66 billion to the state’s economy.

♦ Arkansas’ own Walmart Stores, also among others, publicly opposing Arkansas’ Religious Freedom Restoration Act, helping to force a compromise believed to be less discriminatory.

♦ Walmart, Amazon, Sears and other retailers discontinuing the sale of Confederate flags after a Confederate-flag-loving Dylann Roof fatally shot nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, because he wanted to start a race war.

Now, in the aftermath of the Florida school shooting that killed 17, Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Kroger have announced they will stop selling guns to those under 21. Walmart had stopped selling assault-style rifles in 2015.

The Bentonville retailer said it was making the move “in light of recent events.”

These companies, particularly a global retailer like Walmart, are sophisticated businesses that must understand consumer sentiment to survive. What they appear to understand is that they’ll gain more — business, dollars, goodwill, good karma — by taking action to curb gun violence than they will lose. They are demonstrating more responsiveness to their customers than politicians are to their constituents, perhaps because politicians’ loyalty often belongs to the biggest donors.

Lawmakers would do well to observe the example corporate America is setting.