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Where Walmart leads on guns, will others follow?

To our thinking, the lesson of Walmart is that substantial gun reform may eventually succeed in Congress, if enough puppets of the gun lobby are run out of office. Ordinary citizens can further the cause by putting pressure on corporate America.

Sherie Gramlich cries during a Saturday vigil for victims of a mass shooting earlier in the day at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas.
A young woman cries during a vigil on Aug. 3 for victims of a mass shooting earlier that day at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas.
AP Photos

Why is Walmart doing the right thing?

Because you, the average American fed up with the stupidity of our nation’s gun laws, want Walmart to do the right thing.

Good luck trying to get Congress to enact even the most widely supported gun reforms. Congress does not answer to you. Congress answers to the gun lobby, with its tens of millions of dollars to throw around. It answers, as well, to a relative minority of gun-defending extremists who control Republican primaries in red states and — thanks to gerrymandering — congressional districts.

But Walmart, in its way, answers to you. You can shop there or not. You can work there or not. You can buy its stock or not.

Rethinking guns after 22 die

Walmart’s top executives on Tuesday took a stand for a saner approach to guns in the United States, and we have no doubt their stand is heartfelt. When 22 people are killed at one of your stores, as happened last month in El Paso, Texas, you might be inclined to rethink your views on guns as you make the rounds of funerals.

Walmart announced that it no longer will sell ammunition for handguns and military-style assault rifles, and it will request that customers refrain from openly carrying firearms in its stores because they’re scaring people.

Walmart will discontinue handgun sales at its stores in Alaska, as it did two decades ago at all its other stores. And Walmart called on Congress to increase background checks and to consider a new ban on assault rifles.

There is little doubt, though, that Walmart also is seeking to protect and even enhance its bottom line, especially as it looks to expand sales on the East and West coasts and in big cities and suburbs, where people generally favor greater gun restrictions. Walmart’s not taking much of a risk in calling for more background checks, for example, given that 90% of Americans favor more background checks. Walmart might be improving its brand.

Pressure on corporations

To our thinking, the lesson of Walmart is that substantial gun reform may eventually succeed in Congress, if enough puppets of the gun lobby are run out of office. Ordinary citizens can further the cause by putting pressure on corporate America.

After the El Paso shooting, Walmart removed signs for violent video games in its stores, reports the New York Times, but gun control groups and Democrats running for president said that wasn’t enough.

Last month, 40 white-collar Walmart workers in California walked off the job to protest the company’s gun policies. Walmart workers in Portland, Oregon, and Brooklyn organized a petition, which garnered more than 140,000 signatures, asking the company to stop selling firearms.

Better yet, when Walmart — the biggest retailer in the country — reshapes its gun policies, others are sure to follow.

On Wednesday, Kroger, the nation’s second biggest grocer, announced that it, too, would ask customers in open-carry states not to display their firearms in stores.

Walmart could have gone further

Grassroots public pressure can have an impact, and not just in Washington.

Last summer, shareholders in a major American gun company, Sturm Ruger & Co., ordered the CEO to issue an annual report on the company’s efforts to reduce the harm associated with its guns. Why? Simply to put and keep the issue on the agenda.

The shareholders’ resolution was drafted by a group of religious leaders — the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility — and a grassroots advocacy group — the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation.

Walmart, for its part, could have gone further Tuesday in one obvious way. We wish the company had called for a new ban on the sale of assault weapons, rather than just say it “should be debated.

Yet we’re glad Walmart did not go further in another way, by discontinuing the sale of traditional hunting rifles. Gun-control advocates do their cause no favor — not in this country — when they overreach by going after hunters.

Texas killer went unscreened

The urgency grows, almost daily, for more responsible gun laws. Just last Saturday, in yet another mass shooting, a man with a military-style assault rifle went on a rampage in West Texas and killed seven people.

The Texas killer had been blocked from buying a gun in 2014 because of a “mental health issue” flagged during a federal background check. But he was able to obtain the gun he used Saturday through a private — and perfectly legal — sale that required no background check.

Had there been a law requiring a background check for all sales, as Walmart appears to favor, those seven people killed in Texas might be alive today.

Walmart, for a whole host of likely reasons, did the right thing.

Who will be next?

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