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In the days following a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, that left 22 people dead, the retail giant has faced pressure to stop selling guns in its stores.
Several Democratic presidential candidates have called on the company to end firearm sales. A petition started by a Walmart employee has received more than 60,000 signatures. The store's social media accounts have been bombarded with calls to "stop selling guns." One of the country's largest teachers' unions threatened a boycott if Walmart didn't take action.
Walmart, one of the nation's biggest gun retailers, has made changes to its gun sales policies in recent years. The company stopped selling assault-style rifles like the one used in El Paso in 2015 and raised the age requirement for gun purchases to 21 last year, shortly after the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. Walmart also pulled guns from its New Mexico stores last month in response to new background-check legislation in the state.
Walmart has no plans to suspend gun sales, a spokesman announced. The company did have its stores remove violent displays for video games in response to the El Paso shooting.
Why there's debate:
Gun-control advocates argue that Walmart is so powerful that if the company chose to stop gun sales, it could "change the national conversation in an instant." Others argue there is a moral disconnect for Walmart stores to sell guns and also be the scene of such horrific gun violence. "The weapons they sell are killing their own customers and employees," Sen. Elizabeth Warren said.
Walmart's defenders say its policies comply with all federal laws — and are in many cases stricter than local gun laws. The company has stores all over the country, including areas where voters are staunchly pro gun rights, they argue. A former Walmart CEO said the solution to gun violence should be "delivered by the country and by Congress," not by a private company.
Walmart stores have become a flashpoint in the aftermath of the El Paso shooting. A man in Missouri faces charges of making a terror threat after walking into a store wearing body armor and carrying a loaded rifle. Police have responded to credible online shooting threats against a number of Walmart stores across the country in the past week.
Walmart would be wise to stop selling guns, since the store will be tied to future shootings
"Undoubtedly, Walmart isn’t to blame for the horrific events in El Paso. But it will just keep finding itself hauled into a fervent and fast-changing debate on the topic. So long as it sells guns, it will have this problem. And it’s not going away." — Sarah Halzack, Bloomberg
Gun sales are a fundamental part of Walmart's identity
Walmart “stores are at the heart of red state America, and many of his customers believe learning to use guns is part of a moral upbringing. They believe folks on both coasts are plotting to take theirs away." — Alan Murray and Katherine Dunn, Forbes
Walmart should use gun sales as leverage to push change throughout the firearms industry
"Economists have a term for the kind of influence you wield: economic leverage. Walmart has used this leverage for years over its suppliers, partners, distributors, rivals — even cities and states. Now you have the chance to use that clout to help fix a system that is clearly broken, to solve a crisis whose costs are measured in lives, not just in profits and losses." — Aaron Ross Sorkin, New York Times
Ending gun sales would open space in stores for more profitable products
"Guns and ammo were important to Walmart in the 20th century, maybe the first decade of this one. But it's declining while other segments like toys and pets are growing. This is the biggest opportunity for the company in the last 25 years." — Retail strategist Burt Flickinger III to CNN
Moves like removing video game posters are insulting empty gestures
"Stop selling guns. If you're really that committed to gun violence, taking down a video game ad inside your store is absurd." — Thornton McEnery, Yahoo Finance
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