One of America’s largest big box retailers and a significant purveyor of firearms and ammunition is yielding to anti-gun hysteria by calling for action on gun control and adding extra-legal policies to its firearm and ammunition sales.
Way to act like Dick’s, Walmart.
Yes, Walmart is now following in the infamous footsteps of Dick’s Sporting Goods by using the actions of a criminal to rationalize restricting the availability of goods to its own law-abiding customers.
Walmart claims to account for 2% of guns sales and 20% of ammunition sales in the U.S. As such, it is a frequent target of anti-gun activists who treat the availability of firearms, including lawful transactions by federally-licensed dealers, as a public health crisis.
Walmart some time ago chose the hopeless path of gradual capitulation to these firearm prohibitionists, even though every concession merely amplifies their demands for total prohibition.
As we noted last week, the company already has strict corporate policies governing firearm sales above and beyond those required by law. It had already stopped selling handguns (except in Alaska) or semiautomatic rifles several years ago. It won’t sell long guns or ammunition to those under age 21, and it requires special training and vetting of employees who sell firearms. It also refuses to advertise firearm sales, videotapes each firearm transaction that occurs in its stores, and won’t use the safety valve available under federal law that allows firearm transfers to occur when the FBI does not render a decision on a NICS check.
Walmarts in California, Delaware, and New Mexico have even stopped selling firearms altogether to avoid having to comply with those jurisdictions’ “universal background check” laws, which burden licensed dealers with facilitating transactions between private individuals.
Needless to say, these steps – however much they might have inconvenienced or alienated the law-abiding public that buys firearms and ammunition – have done nothing to temper Walmart’s anti-gun critics.
Those critics have recently used the terrible crimes committed against helpless shoppers in an El Paso Walmart to call on the company to stop selling firearms nationwide.
And Walmart has again bowed to anti-gun activism with further restrictions. According to the Wall Street Journal, the retailer will now stop selling handguns in its Alaska stores, the better to focus “on the needs of hunting and sport-shooting enthusiasts.” Other changes include discouraging otherwise legal open carry in its stores and restricting the types of ammunition Walmart stores will offer for sale.
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon sent an email to the company’s employees on Tuesday, announcing the changes. His comments – as reproduced by Business Insider– made it clear that Walmart’s corporate class made these decisions without a sophisticated understanding of modern firearms or ammunition and the laws that govern them.
"After selling through our current inventory commitments,” McMillon wrote, “we will discontinue sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber that, while commonly used in some hunting rifles, can also be used in large capacity clips on military-style weapons … .” What led McMillon to label this very common round as “short-barrel rifle ammunition” is unclear. The company will also stop selling “handgun ammunition,” although it’s also unclear what that means, given that many common types of ammunition can be used in both handguns and long guns.
McMillon admitted that he expected the changes to decrease Walmart’s market share for ammunition sales in the U.S. from 20% to between 6% and 9%.
More confoundingly, McMillon said he sent letters urging the White House and Congress “to move forward and strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger.” He also opined that “the reauthorization of the Assault Weapons ban should be debated to determine its effectiveness."
Of course, the effectiveness of the federal “assault weapons” ban McMillon mentioned has been repeatedly studied and debated already. In short, it didn’t work, and Congress made a wise decision in allowing it to expire in 2004.
"We know these decisions will inconvenience some of our customers, and we hope they will understand," McMillon stated.
Asking America’s increasingly put-upon gun owners to understand these discriminatory changes is perhaps a bridge too far.
The person who victimized Walmart customers in El Paso obviously had no regard for the law or for the sanctity of innocent human life.
And just as obviously, those innocent people had no protection from Walmart itself. Their only hope was to protect themselves.
Yet now the company responds with corporate policies that will do nothing so much as to limit even further the options its customers have to defend themselves and their families against violent criminals.
And just as Dick’s fortunes in the firearms sector have crateredto the point where they may eliminate guns from their inventory altogether, so, too, does Walmart risk alienating whatever remaining pro-gun shoppers it has left, to say nothing of angering shareholders who may also be adversely affected.
Speaking of shareholders, it’s likely no coincidence that Blackrock Fund Advisors just happens to be a large institutional investor in both Dick’s and Walmart. Last year, Blackrock noted that it was “engage[d] in a discussion of  business practices”with the firearm retailers in which it invests. It’s unfortunate that Walmart, like Dick’s before it, seems to have put the anti-gun whims of its New York investors ahead of the rights of its own customers.