Will Walmart’s customers accept its rejection of the firearms ‘status quo’?

Discussion
Source: Walmart; Photo: Getty Images
Sep 04, 2019
George Anderson

In a letter to associates, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon recalled the recent tragedies at the chain’s stores in El Paso, TX and Southaven, MS in which 24 people lost their lives and 26 others were injured in acts of gun violence. He also announced steps the chain is taking to address the situation and help “make the country safer” after concluding “that the status quo is unacceptable.” 

Mr. McMillon announced Walmart will, as a precaution, discontinue sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition, once the company has fulfilled its current obligations with suppliers. He acknowledged that while this ammunition is used in legal hunting activities, it can also be used in large capacity clips on military-style weapons. The decision, he said, will affect Walmart’s business as the chain expects to go from its current 20 percent market share of ammunition to as low as six percent.

“We know these decisions will inconvenience some of our customers, and we hope they will understand. As a company, we experienced two horrific events in one week, and we will never be the same,” wrote Mr. McMillon. “Our remaining assortment will be even more focused on the needs of hunting and sport shooting enthusiasts. It will include long barrel deer rifles and shotguns, much of the ammunition they require, as well as hunting and sporting accessories and apparel.” 

Walmart’s CEO also expressed concern about store safety as it relates to firearms with reference to individuals who try to make a statement about their Second Amendment rights be walking into the chain’s stores heavily armed in so-called open carry states.

These incidents have caused stress for the retailer’s customers and associates, with some resulting in calls to law enforcement. As a result, Mr. McMillon said, Walmart is “respectfully requesting that customers no longer openly carry firearms” into its stores and Sam’s Club locations unless they are “authorized law enforcement officers.” Customers with concealed carry permits will still be allowed to bring firearms into the retailer’s stores. The company plans to post signage at its entrances to educate shoppers on the new policy.

This is not the first time that Walmart has taken steps as a company to address gun violence in the U.S. In the past, the chain discontinued the sale of military-style rifles and handguns in its stores. The chain announced that it would no longer sell handguns in Alaska, the only state where it continued to carry those products.

Walmart previously raised the age to purchase firearms and ammunition in its stores from 18 to 21. It also only allows trained associates to sell firearms in its stores and requires customers to receive a “green light” from federal authorities on a background check to purchase the products. Federal law only requires the absence of a “red light” to legally permit a sale.

As it grew to become the largest retailer in the U.S., Walmart was often associated with the sale of firearms, ammunition and hunting gear. Its founder Sam Walton was known as an avid hunter and Mr. McMillon is also a gun owner. It is through this lens that Walmart’s CEO has called on political leaders to work together to come up with “common sense” responses on background checks and red flag laws to decrease the growing number of mass shootings taking place in America.

Walmart is not alone in taking steps to address gun safety in the U.S. Dick’s Sporting Goods made the decision to end the sale of military-style rifles in all it stores last year after a shooter murdered 17 students and teachers in a high school in Parkland, FL. The chain, which also raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21, has been conducting pilots to determine whether it should end sales of firearms completely.

Yesterday, Kroger announced that it is also asking customers to refrain from openly carrying firearms in its stores. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think retailers such as Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods and others are compelled to take steps to mitigate gun violence because of the failure of political leaders to do so? Will Walmart be penalized or rewarded by customers for the steps it is taking?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I’ve been a gun owner who has enjoyed target shooting and plinking for more than 40 years, and I believe that they did the right thing."
"The consumer will see the genuine nature of the move and reward it in kind. Super simple…"
"Yes. This is the right thing to do, and Sam Walton would have wanted it this way."

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41 Comments on "Will Walmart’s customers accept its rejection of the firearms ‘status quo’?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

The leadership these retailers are showing is proof that societal change is not merely for politicians to decide. When politicians fail to act, it’s incumbent on other leaders to effect change, and this is what Walmart and Dick’s are doing. I believe that Walmart will be rewarded by customers for taking a stand – a stand that will make their customers, employees and society at large safer. Well done Walmart.

Bob Andersen
Guest

Exactly. Retailers and others must step up because in this country, special interests (NRA) can control politicians (GOP) to make policy even when it’s against the wishes of the majority.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

You guys, and the rest of the comments below, are pretty much spot on — guess all the negative hits are just a sign of these sad times — here’s to November 2020!

Bob Andersen
Guest

Maybe the thumbs down is the negative reaction to the special interests who now have greater influence than the American people.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Other than the loss of revenue from the ammunition it will stop selling, I don’t think this decision will have much impact on Walmart one way or the other. Boycotts and people saying they will start shopping somewhere because a retailer has enacted a certain policy never really pan out.

As for the politics, Walmart has to take commercial decisions based on what it believes to be right. But neither it nor any other retailer can set national policy on guns: that’s up to politicians and ultimately the voting public.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

I have to say that Doug McMillon has made me a believer. I have never, on principle, shopped at Walmart, but I’m starting to warm up to it. The list of messes he is cleaning up is long and, while it may not matter to his existing customers, I suspect stealing someone like me from Amazon will make him more money than he loses. On some level, he’s extending what was a tapped out market.

Plus, CVS didn’t lose anything when it stopped selling tobacco (now if they could just get rid of those receipts!). And we know Dick’s is doing well.

Retailers are catching up to the majority of consumers — that portion that has both scruples and disposable income. I think it’s great.

I already bought something from Hayneedle, which I know is owned by Walmart. I expect more purchases to follow.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

The dreaded CVS receipts! I am all digital now and I do not want a four-foot long receipt anymore!

In all seriousness Paula, I couldn’t agree with you more. The moves that Walmart is making truly represent a paradigm shift, and other brands will follow soon.

LAURA RAMIREZ
Guest

While I’m confused about your “on principle” referring to never shopping at Walmart but seemingly being an Amazon customer — conflicting — I do believe companies should be rewarded either via accolades or actual dollars when they make decisions like this.

That said, I’ll continue to support small business because I can.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust
I’m happy to reply, Laura, though I’m late to the party (never even saw all those thumbs down…and I’ll be kind and not say anything more about that). My principle around not shopping at Walmart was always that a) it destroyed many small towns and b) a lot of those places would have preferred it NOT come. Of course, there’s the American taxpayers’ subsidy of their low wages that added into the mix. And so, on principle, because I felt like the company was a bully, going where it wasn’t wanted, and being generally brutish, I refused to shop there. Amazon isn’t close to that category. It takes no real estate, and while it is also crowding out some small businesses, it is doing the same with large ones. I don’t feel as much pity for them, as it is possible (and has in fact become a reality in many cases) to compete, and choose to avoid it. For me, Amazon has become a victim of its own game. I always price check significant purchases… Read more »
Art Suriano
BrainTrust
Gun violence has become a significant problem. I don’t think Walmart, which has experienced several gun incidents, has any choice. Unfortunately, Walmart, Dick’s, and any other retailer banning gun sales will do very little to solve the problem. I strongly believe in strict background checks and doing everything possible to make sure we can trust the individual purchasing the gun to use it properly. Statistically, about 7 percent of guns used in a crime are purchased legally. The media makes the number sound a lot higher. However, most of the weapons used in horrific events or crimes are purchased illegally, and that’s a much harder task to tackle. I personally don’t own a gun, have no interest in holding or firing one, but I do understand that many people in our country do. That’s fine when the weapons are purchased legally and used wisely. If more retailers eliminate guns from their stores, I’m concerned that will only boost sales in the black market, and that could make things worse. The biggest problem today is our… Read more »
Ian Percy
BrainTrust

Hey Art, I searched around for your “7 percent of guns used in a crime purchased legally” figure. Not questioning that at all, but 10 minutes of searching showed me how confused gun data collection is. Seemed like no one had the same figures. As I understand it, we’re prevented from any serious gun use research thanks to the NRA. Makes me wonder, if the “more guns” cause is so good for the nation, why on earth would they not want to justify that conclusion with some accurate and insightful research? I appreciate your contribution today.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust
Ian, You are quite right the numbers can be a bit confusing. One assumes that once upon a time — with the exception of weapons stolen from gun manufacturers at the factory; military and/or police ordinance that was illicitly obtained; and thefts from gun retailers — all guns used in crimes were sold legally. And if we are talking about mass casualty events — how bizarre we have a term of art for psychotic mass slaughter — the fact is that, (sorry Art) over the last 30 years or so, 82 percent of the weapons used in those murders were legally purchased. The unassailable fact is — and I say this as someone who owned his first gun at age eight and went through NRA Gun Safety Class as a kid — that more guns on the street significantly increases the potential number of guns used against people. You can’t shoot what you don’t have. Art is right that there needs to be a political action here — and it’s not the Congress, it’s Mitch… Read more »
Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

Well stated, Ian. During my teen age years, I spent some summers on the farm in the upper Midwest. While I tried various gauge shotguns, I loved my .22 rifle to target shoot and small game hunting. As a military officer, I earned the U.S. Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal. I was and still am proud of that medal. I have a healthy respect for guns and what they can do as well as holding a strong belief in the absolute necessity for stringent ownership controls. No one needs an arsenal in their home or access to military grade killing machines.

LAURA RAMIREZ
Guest

I’m really keen to see how Walmart offering other retailers FREE usage of their proprietary firearms sales technology will pan out.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Yes. Walmart is doing the right thing and being a good citizen. They are doing what they can and what they are doing is in keeping with what the majority of citizens everywhere support. This is not a slippery slope. It’s common sense. While it’s not a cure-all, it’s a step in the right direction.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

Yes, they are taking necessary steps as our lawmakers have failed to do so. The majority of Americans are in favor of an assault weapon ban, a ban on large capacity magazine clips and more comprehensive background checks. Heck, even most gun owners are in favor of these. There are so many loopholes still to be closed such as if you’ve been convicted for assault of any kind on your wife, husband, etc. there is a law on the books that prevents you from getting a gun, but if its your girlfriend or boyfriend, than you are free to buy a gun. This is crazy and Walmart has taken a major step here, perhaps something they should have done long ago, but nontheless a step that many other retailers should follow.

If something is not done, and this continues to happen at Walmart locations, what happens to Walmart? The CEO is taking action on something that is an existential threat to their business, their shareholders, their associates and their shoppers.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

I have no need to go to Walmart, but I will today – there must be something there I need. I applaud them and will support them however I can. I don’t see this as “rejecting” anything, I see it as “accepting” common sense, safety, concern for their customers, their selfless thinking and so on.

I’ve lived happily in AZ for 22 years having moved here from Toronto and taken up citizenship. Can’t imagine living anywhere else. But to be honest, I still don’t understand this gun thing. As in most other countries, there are lots of guns in Canada but no one talks about it. Here it’s talked about more than the weather. What drives me crazy is when people talk about having guns as a “God-given right.” I’m pretty confident that God had nothing to do with it and has left us to our ways. It’s called “free will” and we live with the outcome of our decisions. Walmart made a great decision, God bless them.

Evan Snively
BrainTrust

Customers might stop buying gun and hunting supplies at Walmart, but they won’t stop shopping at Walmart altogether.
Glad to see Walmart deciding that just because they CAN do something doesn’t mean that they SHOULD. Our economy puts so much emphasis on being “free,” which those in power so often use as armor for exercising business practices with negative social benefit.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

Kudos to Doug McMillon and team for making a tough decision.

Especially given the past tragedies, gun sales are best left to specialty retailers that hopefully will be supported with better laws on background checks and related protections. I believe removing this set of ammunition from retail sales is a solid step along that path. I stated my belief that the company should take a stand with the following comment in the recent RetailWire article titled “Walmart trains quarterly for active shooter events”: “Why not remove the category from stores and send a strong message against gun violence instead of potentially profiting from it?” Interestingly, despite nothing but down votes for my comments on RetailWire, Walmart is somewhat aligned with my suggestion.

Regarding the loss of revenue, Walmart has plenty of room to make up for it and the Walton family can sustain a dent in their one hundred million dollar a day income to support shoppers, associates, and the public.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

Politicians are failing to act. There is so much vaccilating that one can only hope they come to their senses and do what is right for the American public; not just for those who support a particular cause. I cannot see a reason one would need to carry a gun into a shopping mall or store. This is not the Wild West anymore; or at least, it wasn’t until recently. I can understand one’s desire to hunt although I am not a hunter. But there is no need for some of these firearms that can shoot multiple rounds into an animal or person. Kudos to Walmart for taking a bold step they know might affect their overall sales.

Al McClain
Staff

Sure, they will probably lose a little business, but sometimes you have to do the right thing because it is the right thing. The federal government is failing us on gun violence, the environment, health care, and many other issues and numerous retailers are stepping up to try to at least partially fill the gap. I hope we don’t have to hit rock bottom before government wakes up, because we may not recover if we do.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Escalating gun violence has inspired retailers to take bold action, as corporations have grown more powerful and agile than legislators.

The biggest retailer in the world has been inextricably linked to recent tragedies involving gun violence in its stores. As such, Walmart made an undoubtedly difficult decision on a complex, divisive issue to prioritize people’s safety over profit.

Since Walmart serves consumers on both sides of the gun issue, I expect a short-term decline in sales and loyalty among gun rights advocates.

Yet “We will never be the same,” says it all: Walmart chose compassion and prompt action rather than business as usual.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Brands and retailers have a golden opportunity to take a much more significant stance on social and political issues. Even if it comes at the detriment of revenue streams and profitability, the stance that Walmart, with CEO Doug McMillon at the helm, has taken is truly a commendable one. This will absolutely resonate not only with current customers but new ones who may look to Walmart as a viable alternative to Amazon, etc.

Change can occur at all levels of society and if the political system is slow to adapt, then certainly businesses such as Walmart have enough clout to make a small but meaningful impact. While the sales of firearms are at the forefront of the political debates, CVS and other retailers stopped selling tobacco products in their stores five years ago, and retailers can truly have a positive impact.

Well done Walmart, this is a good start.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Thank you, Walmart, for your leadership. Surely none of your customers want to be terrorized in the pet department by some yahoo carrying a semi-automatic. Your prescient decision mirrors that of CVS in removing cigarettes from the store. Bravo.

Ron Margulis
BrainTrust

This is another proof point that retailers are more connected to the American citizenry than our elected representatives. Walmart looked at the data and determined these actions won’t materially impact their bottom lines in even the medium-term, just as CVS did when it stopped selling tobacco products. I’ve been a gun owner who has enjoyed target shooting and plinking for more than 40 years, and I believe that they did the right thing.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

I’m “all in” with Walmart on this one. I see a lot of stickers on store doors prohibiting weapons in the store — at least that is taking a stand as well. I agree with most commentators here, this cannot hurt Walmart. They are creating a better level of comfort and assurance that they hold their customer’s safety as the highest priority. Walmart’s action will ripple through the retail industry. Thanks Walmart (and all the other retailers who have implemented similar steps in their stores) for taking this stand.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Sometimes you just have to do the right thing and to me, that’s the least Walmart could do. Being a “good” company now requires them to do good things, not just make profits. I hope many more follow suit since our actual lawmakers are all on payola.

Neil Schwartz
Guest
Neil Schwartz
Global Head of Corp. Sales
10 days 21 hours ago

Walmart has done the right thing. While this is far from a perfect solution, it is at least something. I always say that perfect is the enemy of “done” and at least Walmart and now Kroger have done something to try and curb the gun violence. The next step has to come from the grassroots and hopefully this is the start of other corporations taking a more responsible approach. Dick’s Sporting Goods was one of the first and it will be interesting to see who else decides to make some sort of policy change.

Zach Zalowitz
BrainTrust

I don’t think the retailers are compelled to do anything. I think it’s genuine in intent, but to others’ points, it’s not as if they are saying “we’re going to give up 5 percent+ of our revenue.” This *is* the right move to make, but it’s one you make whether you’re Walmart or not, because it’s the right thing to do. Anything else is a publicity stunt. To the other questions, the consumer will see the genuine nature of the move and reward it in kind. Super simple…

Scott Benedict
Guest

I think a number of retailers, in particular Walmart, rightfully believe that they can be a force for good on a topic such as this where political leaders are cautious to act out of fear of the next election results. This topic hit closer to home for them, as Doug mentioned in his note, because two events happened within a week at Walmart stores. Walmart genuinely cares about its customers and its associates, and to do nothing in the wake of these events would not have been in line with its heritage and role as a leader on difficult topics of public interest.

What surprised me the most, in a positive way, was the strong call to political leaders to address background check and assault rifle legislation currently pending in Congress. Challenging them to take action, having just done so themselves, was courageous but not altogether surprising as a former Walmart associate. The time had come for them to lead on this issue, and they do so — effectively.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

I applaud the companies deciding not to sell ammunition for non-sport guns and the retailers not allowing firearms in their stores. Unless they are part of the solution they are part of the problem.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

As members of a community, retailers have a responsibility to their customers and neighbors. It simply cannot be reduced to a transactional world where profit at any cost reigns. We use the “hidden hand” of the market logic to rationalize getting on the eventual correct path. Such economic rationale has an absolute place in our society, yet there are situations when it needs help when harm, abuse, and fear set in due to inaction and leadership is called upon to mitigate the consequences.

Under the leadership of Doug McMillon, Walmart is doing the right thing which may well introduce the common sense necessary for a much calmer and more constructive approach to this national issue.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

Yes. This is the right thing to do, and Sam Walton would have wanted it this way. Our political leaders are being swayed by fear, minor PACs like the NRA and outdated political positions. Retailers like Walmart, Kroger and others have had enough and are no longer going to empower this misperceived status quo, since it is not reflected by their customers’ needs. Now they are responding to their customers’ needs and their business requirements.

Jasmine Glasheen
BrainTrust

Look… here’s the deal: Walmart customers are going to be mad, and they also did the right thing. Retail has never been more political and those that try to ignore it are going to be swept aside. Plain and simple.

I recently wrote a whitepaper where I made the correlation between Amazon and the democratic party; and Walmart and the Trump administration. Walmart customers are older, lower-income, and skew to the right. Yes, people will be angry.

With that said, a lot of democrats and libertarians also shop at Walmart, or they did formerly. There are many consumers who will appreciate Walmart’s willingness to look beyond political party and do the right thing, regardless of the backlash from the emphatic gun enthusiasts.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Most people shop at Walmart either because they have to — at least in a practical sense — or because it’s in their interest(s) to do so. Neither of these facts has changed.

Liz Crawford
Guest

Retailers are often more tuned into consumer sentiment than politicians. When Walmart makes a stand like this, it demonstrates that the reality of these shootings is sinking in. It isn’t a partisan issue. It’s a public safety issue.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

We need always remember that the massive public fights are at the extremes. That means good, smart business decision making (based on the company’s role) only rarely would ever be a problem.

We have the good results from Dick’s to compare as well here. Walmart made their choice and it’s not going to hit their results.

Rich Duprey
Guest
The decision won’t affect Walmart’s business much, nor will it do one thing to reduce gun violence in society at large or in Walmart stores. A person intent on killing another is not going to care that Walmart has a “no open carry” policy. Yet like at other “gun free zone” locations such as schools, theaters, and shopping malls where most mass shootings occur, Walmart customers will now be left unable to defend themselves against an armed gunman. The only people the new Walmart policy impacts are law-abiding citizens. Criminals will still have their guns, they will still have their ammunition. Like most of the policy proposals offered by politicians on the issue, the so-called common sense gun law reform most people spout but never really articulate makes for good PR sound bites, but does little to actually stop the problem. The Odessa shooting was the first mass shooting where universal background checks “might” have prevented the shooter from getting a gun, but only if he and the buyer self-reported the sale (the shooter failed… Read more »
Neil Schwartz
Guest
Neil Schwartz
Global Head of Corp. Sales
10 days 16 hours ago

It’s far from perfect, but at least it’s something and something is better than nothing.

Tony Orlando
BrainTrust
Okay, after reading every comment, I have to come realize that I may be the only person to see this in a different way. I live in a rural area where guns and hunting are common everywhere, and I welcome concealed carry, because those who wear their personal sidearms into my store are some of the best people I have ever met, and they would never start any trouble. However, they might finish it if someone was in peril from a lunatic with a gun that wants to harm others. I own 3 guns with my son, and we go shooting for target practice once in a while. There are 50-60 other folks there enjoying the same thing, and not once did I ever feel threatened. My friends in high school carried their shotguns on a rack in their trucks, and we would check them out after school and never once had an incident. The actions from Kroger and Walmart may seem noble, but it will not stop crazies from hurting other innocent people. Guns… Read more »
mark ondrusek
Guest
10 days 40 minutes ago

Tony Orlando is spot on. What Walmart is doing will do nothing to solve the problem. Everything they do is for the bottom line. FYI, alcohol kills 10 times more people every year than guns. Who is banning alcohol sales?

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I’ve been a gun owner who has enjoyed target shooting and plinking for more than 40 years, and I believe that they did the right thing."
"The consumer will see the genuine nature of the move and reward it in kind. Super simple…"
"Yes. This is the right thing to do, and Sam Walton would have wanted it this way."

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