After the announcement by Wal-Mart that it would stop carrying certain types of ammunition and that it would ask in a non-confrontational manner that customers refrain from open-carrying firearms in their stores, a number of other retailers did the same. In the eyes of corporate America it is a pretty safe virtue signal. There really aren’t that many people who open-carry, at least not around here probably due in large part to so many people having concealed carry permits. I don’t own a gun cuz they are yucky and evil and I certainly don’t carry one but if I did I would probably prefer to quietly carry concealed for no other reason than to avoid having the cops confuse me with a shooter or having some genius try to grab my gun from the holster. If I owned a gun that is.
What Makes Wal-Mart Different
The Wal-Mart announcement is drawing a lot of fire (pun intended) in part because Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world and one that traditionally catered to rural and suburban Americans, the kind of people most likely to be gun rights supporters. Wal-Mart made a decision that is aimed at placating the sort of people who don’t shop at their stores anyway. That is bad enough but a lot of retailers are doing the same thing. What is really bad is that Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon decided to make a political statement as well as announcing a business decision. From the Wal-Mart corporate website on September 3rd, 2019 (emphasis in red mine):
Finally, we encourage our nation’s leaders to move forward and strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger. We do not sell military-style rifles, and we believe the reauthorization of the Assault Weapons ban should be debated to determine its effectiveness.
That is where Wal-Mart crossed a line.
Wal-Mart stores, unlike social media platforms which are now de facto public spaces, are completely privately owned (we can argue about the tax incentives and impact on communities later). They are physical spaces on privately owned land. I can buy anything I can get at Wal-Mart somewhere else. I might pay more but then again I might not but what goes on in a Wal-Mart store doesn’t impact me unless I choose to let it impact me.
But advocating for a ban on “assault weapons”? That impacts me whether I shop in your stores or not. That impacts other companies and the livelihood of their workers whether they shop in your stores or not. It makes a lawful product suddenly unlawful because they are scary looking and in spite of a lack of any evidence that the “assault weapons” ban did anything to reduce crime, especially since rifles of any sort of very rarely used in crime. It crossed the line from a private business decision to a political decision and that is a whole different creature. Someone could never purchase so much as a gallon of milk from Wal-Mart but regardless have their liberty infringed because the CEO and board of directors of Wal-Mart want to make a political statement coldly calculated to appeal to suburban housewives and maybe keep the hounds away from their stores that are trying to unionize their workers.
Wal-Mart can make whatever rules they want in their own stores but when they cross into advocacy of issues that are not directly related to their business, that is a different matter. I don’t often shop at Wal-Mart, their customers are often icky and their staff makes fast-food places look good. I won’t shop there at all going forward. My Sam’s Club membership is pretty handy but next year when my rewards balance is available, I will use it to get a Costco membership. Maybe Costco is just as bad but I haven’t heard their CEO advocating for disarming law-abiding citizens.
Wal-Mart started out as a little thrift store where Sam Walton sold goods he bought for low prices and it grew into a global goliath. I wonder what he would think of his organization today? I am just one guy but back in the day Sam Walton understood that their business relies on their customers and thanks to Doug McMillon sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong, Wal-Mart lost one this week. Maybe someone should show Doug this quote:
There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.