In the last 20 years, mass shootings and school shootings have become a frightening, uniquely American norm. And after multiple fatal shootings in its stores in September, Walmart responded quickly by stopping the sale of ammunition for assault rifles and handguns.
If Walmart can respond that quickly to gun violence in their stores, why can’t Arkansan legislators respond just as quickly to gun violence in their state?
CEO Doug McMillion, on behalf of Walmart, deserves credit for placing human life and the wellbeing of our communities and neighborhoods over stock prices and naked profit. If only corporate America had more leadership along those lines, we might be in a better place. But for all its financial success and clout, Walmart can only control what goes on in its stores. It does not control the state house in Little Rock, and it certainly does not control the Congress.
With about 11,700 stores in more than 25 countries, Walmart is the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer – it has the ability to move markets and to make or break brands, which is exactly what the Arkansas-based corporation does. But rarely have its decisions on what to stock and sell (or not sell, as the case may be) ignited such a political firestorm.
Back in 2018, Walmart dipped its toe in the gun policy debate by joining Dick’s Sporting Goods in no longer selling guns and ammunition to persons under the age of 21. But their decision to stop carrying ammunition and their unwillingness to allow concealed weapons in their stores are a much bigger step that will have a more dramatic impact on both American retail culture as well as Walmart’s corporate bottom line.
Just this week, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) filed to run for reelection. Up to this point, Cotton has failed to act to stem the tide of gun violence. Voting no to universal background checks. No to red flag laws. No to limits on clip sizes. Each of these “no” votes costs lives.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has gone so far as to say that the Senate will not vote on anything that does not have the president’s support. This is sad and sobering news for those who thought senators work for and represent their states rather than their parties.
It’s safe to say that no one believes a single law can make all the difference, or that gun violence will be a thing of the past with the passage of one piece of legislation. In fact, gun violence and the undeniable epidemic of mass shootings needs to be addressed from all different angles. We want the people that we elected to work for solutions, not political points.
To that end, the House has already passed a gun violence prevention bill: The Bipartisan Background Checks Bill. The Senate can no longer stick its collective head in the sand and pretend this problem doesn’t exist.
Walmart suffered a series of tragic shootings and acted. They didn’t wait. They didn’t ask the president’s permission. The Senate should follow their lead, starting with Cotton. At this point, their failure to act can only be read as neglect.
“As a company, we experienced two horrific events in one week, and we will never be the same,” McMillon said in a memo to employees. "It's clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable."