AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File
While Walmart says it plans no changes to its policies on gun and ammunition sales in the wake of the mass shooting at a store in El Paso, Texas, several dozen employees around the country are walking out of their jobs in protest of the retailer’s decision.
Roughly 40 employees walked out of a Walmart e-commerce office in California on Wednesday to protest the retail giant’s gun sale policy after a deadly mass shooting at one of its stores in El Paso, Texas.
According to The Washington Post, the employees left their offices for about 15 minutes and gathered outside the building, where they took a moment of silence.
Other company locations in New York City and Portland, Ore., also reportedly saw employees take similar actions on Wednesday to call on the company to change its policies.
Now, it is worth noting that these walkouts took place exactly where you would expect them; California, Brooklyn, and Portland, Oregon. And I’d be willing to guess that none of the employees who walked out are gun owners, or even know much about the actual policy they’re hoping to change.
Walmart doesn’t sell AR-15’s, and in fact, the only state in which it sells handguns is Alaska. The retail giant also stopped selling firearms completely in New Mexico, after the state’s “universal background check law” went into effect on July 1st. The company claimed that because they would be required to participate in private party background checks it would be better to stop selling firearms entirely.
“New Mexico’s new firearms law would require Walmart stores in New Mexico to conduct background checks for private-party transfers, which our stores are not designed to do due to the safety risks to our associates and our customers,” Tiffany Wilson, director of communications at Walmart, told CBS News in a statement. “The company has decided to surrender its federal firearms licenses and will no longer sell firearms in our New Mexico stores.”
Visit the gun counter at most Walmarts and you’ll find a selection of bolt action and lever action rifles, pump-action shotguns, and maybe a .22LR semi-automatic rifle or two. Supposedly, these are the “okay” guns; the ones that don’t look like “modern battlefield weapons of war”, don’t “spray hundreds of rounds in a minute”, and can’t “bring down aircraft or blow up trains” with a single shot.
None of that matters to these Walmart employees or the celebrity activists cheering them on, as one employee made clear.
Thomas Marshall, a Walmart employee who helped organize Wednesday’s walkout in California, told the Post that workers “no longer want to be complicit by working for a company that profits off the sale of firearms.”
If that’s really what’s concerning Thomas Marshall, he could always go look for another job. But this is a public relations campaign more than a public safety campaign. It’s not the result of the policy change that matters, it’s the change itself. Or rather, the results that these campaigners are looking for have far more to do with influencing public opinion than making the public any safer. If you can stop the nation’s largest retailer from selling firearms and ammunition, then you can move on to the big box outdoor chains and apply similar pressure campaigns, starting with any “assault weapons” and moving down the line from there.
Even if activists don’t get their way today, or this week, or this month, they’ll revisit their efforts every time a gun-related crime dominates the news cycle. So far Walmart doesn’t appear to be moved by the protests from a few employees, but that may be a result of how the employees are expressing their opinions, not a matter of the opinion itself.
Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove also told the Post that there are “more effective channels such as email or leadership conversations” than the recent demonstrations.
“The vast majority of our associates who want to share their views are taking advantage of those options,” he added.
Even if the protests are generating more headlines than change, that’s still a positive result as far as the activists are concerned. I’m sure they’re encouraging employees to email and call the corporate offices as well, but that doesn’t garner nearly as much media attention as a walkout in Brooklyn, which is why I expect to see more of this on-the-clock activism going forward.