retail news in context, analysis with attitude

CNN reports that three retailers - CVS, Wegmans and Walgreens - have joined Walmart and Kroger in announcing that they will ask customers not to openly carry guns into their stores even in states were open carry is legal.

These moves come in the wake of an August 3 mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart by a person described as a white nationalist and domestic terrorist in which 22 people were killed and 25 were injured. There also have been other gun-related incidents at Walmart, as well as in other public places, that seem to have drawn greater attention to the gun issue.

"We support the efforts of individuals and groups working to prevent gun violence, and continually review our policies and procedures to ensure our stores remain a safe environment," CVS said in a statement.

"The sight of someone with a gun can be alarming, and we don't want anyone to feel that way at Wegmans," the food retailer said in its statement.

CBS News notes that this is not exactly new ground. In 2013, Starbucks banned open carry in its stores, and Target did essentially the same thing in 2014. But the movement seems to have gained traction in view of recent gun-related incidents and mass shootings. And, the CBS story also points out that “retailers seem to be walking a fine line between trying to respond to the rash of mass shootings of late while not angering customers who support gun rights, experts said, noting that the new policies stop short of outright bans on firearms in stores. “

Shannon Watts, founder of advocacy group Moms Demand Action, tells CNN, "Prohibiting open carry sends a very strong cultural signal that companies are siding with the safety of families. They know their customers are with them on this ... they want to be on the right side of history but they also know that these actions are good for business.”

CBS News reports that “most U.S. states allow residents to openly carry firearms in public spaces, but the rules vary. By contrast, guns can be prohibited on private property.”
KC's View:
I do think that these retailers are making calculated decisions - they believe that their customers will be better served by these decisions, and, maybe just as important, will feel better served by these decisions. Optics matter.

In its analysis of the situation, The New Yorker provides some context:

Gun massacres, in addition to the death and horror that they bring, are reshaping our culture in ways so destructive— producing perverse exercises in school architecture and the constant, usually needless, but real panic in parents’ hearts—that to register their damage even in terms of the lives lost is insufficient. (That damage is as incomprehensible as it is real—as one chronicle shows, there have been more mass shootings this year than there have been days in the calendar.)

“Yet we can see some small signs that the inevitable process of democratic reform—in which legislation is a lagging, not a leading, indicator, and public outrage eventually directs political conduct more than political conduct can defeat public outrage—is under way. This week’s announcement that Walmart, the second-largest retailer in the world, will end the sale of some kinds of ammunition—and end the sale of handguns in Alaska, the only state where it still sells them—might seem pitifully minimal to visitors from other countries, not least because it was paired with a “request” that customers in the states that allow open carry refrain from openly bringing guns into Walmart stores. But the announcement is nevertheless significant, even astounding.


The New Yorker goes on:

“Though it can’t change everything, Walmart’s act is likely to change something … It’s the primary rule both of social agitation and of social reform: the more micro-changes you make in more places, the more effective the macro-change becomes. Banning the sale of some of the most dangerous kinds of guns and ammunition is just one step. But many steps make long marches.”

You can read The New Yorker piece here. And yes, to be clear, I’m aware that The New Yorker brings its own demographic, geographic and philosophical perspective to the commentary. That’s why they call it commentary.

But as someone who was born in New York, has spent most of his adult life living in New England, and who has a wife and daughter working as educators in public schools just 30 miles south of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, I must confess to being sympathetic to this point of view, though I recognize that the discussion must be broad enough to accept the legitimacy of opinions other than mine.