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The Washington Post reports that despite being under pressure from anti-gun advocacy groups that have become more active in the wake of the killing of 20 people in one of its stores in El Paso, Texas, Walmart said that it “will not stop selling firearms or change its open carry policies.”

Spokesman Randy Hargrove tells the Post, “There has been no change in company policy. With this incident just having happened over the weekend, our focus has been on supporting associates, customer and the El Paso community.”

The Post puts the Walmart reaction in context:

“The retail giant sells guns in about half of its 4,750 U.S. stores, making it one of the nation’s largest sellers of firearms and ammunition. It requires store employees to undergo active shooter training every three months, and allows shoppers to carry firearms openly in cities and states where it is legal … Walmart, which has been selling guns for decades, has gradually tightened its gun policies in recent years. It stopped selling assault-style rifles in 2015 and said it would focus instead on firearms for hunting and sports. Last year, it raised the minimum age for gun and ammunition purchases from 18 to 21, two weeks after a mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., left 17 students and teachers dead.”

The story notes that the El Paso shooting, carried out by what is being described as a white nationalist domestic terrorist, did not take place in a vacuum. Just a few hours later, there was another mass shooting - in Dayton, Ohio, where a man wearing body armor shot and killed nine people, including his own sister. And as noted here yesterday, it was the second recent gun attack in a Walmart; the first was at a Walmart in Southaven, Mississippi, where, as Reuters reported, “a disgruntled colleague allegedly killed two co-workers and injured a police officer.”
KC's View:
An MNB reader sent me an email yesterday noting that the El Paso shootings were, in fact, the third recent gun attack at a Walmart - in late July, there was a shooting in the parking lot of its store in Auburn, Maine.

And again, I’m a little shamed I hadn’t even seen that story. I’d seen the stories (though not reported on them because it just seemed gratuitous) about people urinating on and licking product in various Walmarts. But I hadn’t seen the stories about the shootings, and I probably read more news stories on a daily basis than most people.

Walmart’s problems with gun violence - committed and potential - continue. Newsweek reports this morning that “a man who police said was inspired by the mass shootings on the weekend that claimed 29 lives, was arrested when he entered a Walmart in Florida on Sunday with a weapon and started making threats.”

Let’s be clear about something. If Walmart were to stop selling guns in its stores, it probably would not have much of an impact in terms of mass shootings - the deeply disturbed individuals who traffic in the language of white nationalism and commit unspeakable acts of domestic terrorism would manage to find guns somewhere else.

But, deciding not to sell guns would make a powerful statement … and I have to wonder at what point we all have to start making powerful statements, lest we in any way be complicit in the cowardly and despicable acts being committed in the name of some misguided and deeply disturbed ideology.

It might even be more than that. In his New York Times column today, composed as an open letter to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, Andrew Ross Sorkin writes that there are meaningful steps that Walmart could take:

“You could threaten gun makers that you will stop selling any of their weapons unless they begin incorporating fingerprint technology to unlock guns, for example. You could develop enhanced background checks and sales processes and pressure gun makers to sell only to retailers that follow those measures.

“You have leverage over the financial institutions that offer banking and financing services to gun makers and gun retailers as well as those that lend money to gun buyers. You could use your heft to influence banks and credit card systems to change their processes around tracking gun sales. They have none.”

He goes on:

“It would be easy for you, and other chief executives, to argue that controlling the gun violence epidemic is Washington’s responsibility, not yours. But in an era of epic political dysfunction, corporate executives have a chance to fill that leadership vacuum … The 22 people who died in your store this past weekend deserve more than words of consolation to their families. They deserve a leader who is going to work to make sure it never happens again.”

A friend of mine wrote me an email over the weekend after the El Paso and Dayton shootings about how “the ugly world has come to our doorstep.” It is true. This is something that retailers have to think about, and for which they have to prepare. They need to know, and to communicate throughout their organizations, how to keep their people safe. How to respond when such an event occurs.

Every school in this country has active shooter drills, so the teachers and students alike know how what to do. They think about when the moment happens, not if. Now retailers have to start thinking and acting the same way, because the ugly world is at their doorstep.

There is a creeping darkness in the country, invading places like schools and retailers and movie theaters and concerts and community festivals - where people congregate and where innocents used to feel both safe and safety in numbers. Maybe it is up to all of us to shine a little light.