When Walmart announced last week that it would end sales of short-barrel rifle and handgun ammunition, it’s safe to assume that it was a cautious, deliberate business decision. Walmart doesn’t do impulsive.
The retailing giant, which also announced that it was asking customers to refrain from openly carrying firearms at its stores unless they are law enforcement officers, had experienced a couple of shootings within just a few days of each other. The first was July 30 in Southaven, Mississippi, in which two workers were killed, and the second was Aug. 3 in El Paso, Texas, in which 22 people died.
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Then, on Aug. 8, a Missouri man entered a Springfield Walmart with a tactical rifle, loads of ammunition and a bullet-resistant vest. He never fired, but filmed himself with a phone as panicked shoppers ran. He later told authorities that he was testing the limits of his gun-carrying rights.
Last Tuesday, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon explained the company’s decision on ammunition sales and open carry in a letter to employees, saying he hoped customers would understand.
After two fatal shootings and several threats, Walmart finds itself a focus in America's bitter gun debate.
The usual suspects howled about Walmart’s infringement of their constitutional rights — never mind that as a private enterprise, Walmart has its own rights — but a survey of 1,471 adult Walmart shoppers conducted within hours after the decision was announced showed something interesting: 28% said the new policy on ammunition will make them more likely to shop in Walmart stores, compared with 20% who said they were less likely to shop there. A bare majority, 51%, said it won’t make a difference in their shopping habits.
We think it’s likely that Walmart’s assessment of the public’s attitude to American gun culture, and its insight into its customers, is much more accurate than lawmakers’. The company knows that, as McMillon said, “The status quo is unacceptable.”