Want It Both Ways?

Sep 4, 2019

“Virtue signaling” is today’s synonym for tokenism.

“Tokenism” is wrong. But “virtue signaling” isn’t just accepted business practice; it’s encouraged.

Yesterday, Walmart- which ostensibly sells about two percent of all firearms and twenty percent of the ammunition sold in the United States- announced it would stop selling handgun and “short-barreled rifle” ammunition.

The company said it will also “encourage” customers no longer openly carry guns into any of its 4,700 Walmarts or Sam’s clubs in states that allow for open carry.

Anti-gun groups and follow-along dunderheads who believe that “banning” something protects you (try a “mosquito-free” zone down in the south) are trumpeting the decision.

Seems those bright folks in Bentonville have figured out how to have it both ways.

They’re “doing something” (virtue signaling); but likely not enough “something” to turn-off their entire gun customer base.

That’s playing both sides of the issue.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillion gets to tell employees (and mainstream media and anti-gunners) that “status quo is unacceptable” without alienating all the good ole’ boys (and girls) who also happen to form the bedrock of Walmart’s customers -and profits.

Walmart’s executive VP of corporate affairs, Dan Bartlett, told reporters via phone the company was attempting to balance customers who own guns with safety in stores.

Whatever the motivation, local gun retailers should look at that as good news.

Walmart has essentially “fired” a significant number of customers.

Those customers will be forced elsewhere to buy handgun ammunition. If I were a local gun shop, I’d be getting word out that handgun ammunition wouldn’t be a problem in my shop.

It’s not often you hear a CEO of a major corporation willingly cede any customers. But McMillon says the changes in the ammunition policies will reduce the company’s market share from around 20% to between 6% and 9% of all ammunition sales.

He says Walmart will “treat law-abiding customers with respect” via a “non-confrontational approach” when it comes to the request they not practice open-carry, and that product assortments will “remain even more focused on the hunting and sport shooting enthusiasts.”

McMillon apologized to customers who might be “inconvenienced” by the new policies, adding he hoped they “understood.”

As a “sport shooting enthusiast” who owns both handguns and rifles chambered in handgun calibers, I have more questions than emotions.

Who, for example, decides which calibers are verboten.

What about handgun hunters? Or hunters in states where straight-walled ammunition (like .357 and/or.44 magnums) is OK for hunting?

I’m not excited that Walmart’s sending letters to the White House and Congress to “call for action” and “common sense” gun safety measures. Especially when McMillon says those should include debating the re-authorization of the assault rifle ban and expanding background checks.

“Debating” doesn’t pass anything. And while expanding background checks is a bridge too-far for me, many other gun owners seem to believe there has to be an additional “something” Congress can do to put a dent in violence. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that, too.

The decision quickly brought the ire of the National Rifle Association, which released a statement saying: “It is shameful to see Walmart succumb to the pressure of anti-gun elites. Lines at Walmart will soon be replaced by lines at other retailers who are more supportive of America’s fundamental freedoms.”

“The truth is,” the NRA statement continues, “Walmart’s actions today will not make us any safer. Rather than place the blame on the criminal, Walmart has chosen to victimize law abiding Americans. Our leaders must be willing to approach the problems of crime, violence and mental health with sincerity and honesty.”

Granted, Walmart’s actions don’t do anything to address core problems, but they may have the unintended consequence of giving new hope to local gun shops looking for ways to win back customers or entice new ones to shop with them - instead of the big box behemoth.

We’ll keep you posted.

—Jim Shepherd