AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon says in a new written statement statement it is “encouraged” by support for gun control efforts such as “red flag” laws and “strengthening” background checks, though his comments don’t offer much specifics about any particular policy proposals.
“We’re encouraged that broad support is emerging to strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger,” McMillon said in a statement Thursday. “We believe the reauthorization of the Assault Weapons ban should be debated to determine its effectiveness in keeping weapons made for war out of the hands of mass murderers.”
Note that McMillon doesn’t come out in full support of a ban on the most popular rifle in the country today, though he certainly adopts the language of the gun-banners by referring to semi-automatic rifles as “weapons made for war”. Walmart stopped selling AR-15’s and other semi-automatic rifles in 2015, though at the time McMillon said the decision was based on “sluggish sales” and was not based on support for any gun control laws.
“This is done solely on what customer demand was,” said company spokesman Kory Lundberg. “We are instead focusing on hunting and sportsman firearms.”
Even at the time, that statement was greeted with skepticism by many gun owners, who are well aware that millions of Americans lawfully own and use semi-automatic firearms for a variety of lawful purposes, including hunting and competition. Now the company seems to be moving one step closer towards embracing a federal ban on the rifles, even as gun control groups and activists continue to pressure the retail giant to end firearm and ammunition sales completely.
In the wake of the shooting, Walmart has faced enormous pressure to remove firearms from its physical stores and criticized for selling pro-gun T-shirts on its website. Several Democratic candidates for president have called on Walmart to stop selling guns at its stores. America’s largest teachers’ union, The American Federation of Teachers, and gun safety groups have pressed the retailer to end its gun sales.
Will this be the last word from Walmart on the issue? I tend to doubt it. The company has announced no changes to its current policies on firearm and ammunition sales, and offering vague words of encouragement about Extreme Risk Protection Orders and improving background checks won’t be enough to satisfy anti-gun critics.
It’s also worth noting that even though Walmart’s CEO expressed approval of changes to the background check system, when New Mexico instituted “universal background checks” back in July, it led to Walmart ending firearm sales throughout the state because of concerns about having to conduct background checks for private parties engaged in private transfers. McMillon didn’t mention that in his written statement, which is a shame. He had the opportunity to discuss at least one of the unintended consequences of expanded background checks, and passed in favor of issuing a vague and bland corporate statement unlikely to please or educate folks on either side of the gun debate.