Walmart is being pressured to take a much stronger stance on gun control — and to stop selling guns at all — following the massacre in an El Paso store over the weekend.
Walmart Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT +0.38% is one of the world’s largest gun sellers. Yet a company spokesman told Bloomberg that the retail giant has no plans to stop selling guns or ammunition, or to change its security practices after the mass shooting that killed at least 22 and wounded dozens more on Aug. 3. And Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin takes issue with that in an open letter to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon published on Tuesday, the same day that a Walmart corporate employee urged workers to go on strike to make the company stop selling guns.
“Dear Walmart C.E.O.: You Have the Power to Curb Gun Violence. Do It,” the Times headline reads, with Sorkin reflecting on both the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings that took place over the weekend, as well as the shootings of two workers in a Mississippi Walmart just days earlier.
“What happened over the weekend was not your fault — but it is your moral responsibility to see that it stops.”
Andrew Ross Sorkin
Sorkin credits Walmart for no longer selling handguns and assault-style weapons, as well as raising the age limit to buy a gun to 21. Now he wants the retail giant to get other businesses on board with tighter regulations.
“You, singularly, have a greater chance to use your role as the chief executive of the country’s largest retailer and largest seller of guns — with greater sway over the entire ecosystem that controls gun sales in the United States than any other individual in corporate America,” writes Sorkin.
He notes that Walmart — which is a “crucial client” of banks like Wells Fargo /zigman2/quotes/203790192/composite WFC +0.21% , software companies like Microsoft /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT +0.89% , tech giants like Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.02% and delivery services like Federal Express /zigman2/quotes/203047719/composite FDX -1.77% and UPS /zigman2/quotes/201245396/composite UPS +0.67% — has the economic leverage to influence gun makers and sellers to enhance background checks and sales processes.
He suggests taking a hard-line approach, like no longer accepting Wells Fargo-issued credit and debit cards in Walmart stores as long as it works with the N.R.A., which he describes as “the leading force against reasonable gun laws.” Or Walmart could also start only selling guns with fingerprint technology to unlock them, or could only do business with gun makers with strict security measures.
“The 22 people who died in your store this past weekend deserve more than words of consolation to their families,” he concluded. “They deserve a leader who is going to work to make sure it never happens again.”
Walmart did not respond to a MarketWatch request for comment before publication, but company spokesman Randy Hargrove told Bloomberg that, “Our focus has always been on being a responsible seller of firearms. We go beyond federal law requiring all customers to pass a background check before purchasing any firearm.”
Separately, Thomas Marshall, a Walmart e-commerce category specialist, sent a mass email to the company’s e-commerce team on Monday which called on them to strike to pressure the company to stop selling guns. “In light of recent events, and in response to corporate’s inaction, we are organizing a ‘sick out’ general strike to protest Walmart’s profit from the sale of guns,” reads the email shared by Business Insider. “Tomorrow, Tuesday 8/6/2019, do not show up to work.” [Walmart spokesman Hargrove told Business Insider in response that “there are many more constructive avenues for associates to offer feedback.”]
And the hashtag #CancelNYT was trending on Tuesday morning — but not for Sorkin’s Walmart column. Rather, many Twitter users were eviscerating the paper for a front page headline that described President Trump’s response to the mass shootings over the weekend as “Trump Urges Unity vs. Racism.” While the president denounced hate and white supremacy in his remarks on Monday, his critics noted that the commander-in-chief has made remarks that have been viewed as racist, such as recently tweeting that four congresswomen of color should “go back” to their home countries.
The Times later changed the headline to read, “Assailing Hate But Not Guns.”