Walmart is refusing to stop selling guns in its stores, even after those stores continue to themselves be targets for shooters. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a plan to cut down on the murders. That plan: Ask Congress to maybe deal with it?
In a statement, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said “We do not sell military-style rifles, and 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. We must also do more to understand the root causes that lead to this type of violent behavior.”
Walmart did sell “military-style rifles” a few years ago, insisting when it ended those sales that it was doing so due to sagging customer demand, not outside pressure, and has defended their ongoing decision to sell deadly weapons in a big-box setting because founder Sam Walton just really really liked them, that’s why.
The official company ask Thursday, then, is both extremely narrow and will likely be of at least some consequence. The gargantuan corporate behemoth is willing to put its name only behind a request that Congress “debate” whether to reinstate the assault weapons ban, without mustering the courage to take a position itself? That’s not exactly a bold position.
On the other hand, that the gargantuan—and conservative—corporate behemoth is explicitly calling on Congress to hold that debate knocks a few bricks out from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s own attempts to wait out public demands for action. This is a signal that even in the ranks of longtime Republican allies, there’s mounting acceptance that something needs to be done, and a more dramatic “something” than House and Senate Republicans have been willing to so far put on offer.
Walmart will take substantial flak for this statement from archconservative gun nuts; it’s not free, for them. And they are one of the corporate voices that Republican lawmakers have long relied on as a marker for where their own policies must come down; those lawmakers will likely be sweating now that corporate Republicanism is breaking ranks so explicitly with the conservative base.