Walmart initially declined to meet with AG Eric Holder along with other gun retailers, but thought better about their decision and relented. No doubt concerned about the public face this displays to Americans concerned about saving the lives of innocent victims like those at Newtown. Whether or not this will convert into an attitude of cooperation with gun control advocates remains to be seen. What is sure is the fact that a majority of the public now wants to see new stricter gun regulations and just may shop accordingly.
In 2006 when Walmart started concentrating on urban areas instead of the rural population, it replaced firearms with other sporting goods. And then the 2009 recession hit with sales and profits taking a dive across the country. Struggling, they decided to start selling guns again with advertising and promotion targeting rural areas again where the gun culture is definitely more prevalent. It always seems to come down to the bottom line, even when it involves products designed to kill.
George Zornick in The Nation reports, “Gun sales are a key part of Walmart’s recent sales spike, and have shot up 76 percent over the past two years.” So do they really want a ban on assault weapons? But if Vice Pres. Joe Biden gets what he wants, the fact that Walmart is a certified gun retailer will require other independent sellers to go through the chain for their background checks. In the end, some of these customers could simply change their business to Walmart.
Zornick also reported that, in consideration of the Sandy Hook victims, Walmart had removed the Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle from its website, an obvious public relations ploy since all other assault weapons remained. Freedom Group, who produces the weapon, said, if Walmart should reduce gun sales, it could adversely affect their bottom line since 13% of their sales came from the retailer. However, the Bushmaster AR-15 did remain on store shelves.
Unlike the sleazy gun stores, particularly the gun shows, both of which appeal only to gun worshippers, Walmart has a public image they must maintain and right now the American public has decided it has tired of gun violence due to the number of firearms on the street. This is the fault of the gun lobby, most notable wacky Wayne LaPierre’s NRA, plus the Republicans and some Democrats in Congress. Who will Walmart side with and just how aggressive will their action be? Rationally minded folks are watching and if they don’t see what they like, many will react with their pocketbooks.