After two mass shootings in Texas, an Aug. 3 episode in El Paso and another this weekend in Odessa — both perpetrated by frustrated white men, it should be mentioned — real change has come to our country’s relationship with firearms.
And it comes not from the federal government, charged with interpretation of the Constitutional right to bear arms, nor from state governments, who are hamstrung on gun regulation by single-issue voters, as well as the money and influence that flows through the NRA.
Quite the opposite: In Texas, 10 new laws loosening gun regulations, signed by the governor at the end of the legislative session in June, went into effect on Sunday, just hours after 21 people were shot by a madman in Odessa.
No, this move towards sanity comes from Walmart, the world’s largest company, the world’s largest retailer, the world’s largest private employer — and, here in the US, perhaps one of the most pilloried publicly traded corporations on the exchange. They run mom-and-pops out of business; they contribute to public-assistance rolls because many of their employees don’t make living wages; they use accounting methods to reduce their corporate tax burden below the federal rate of 35 percent and are currently contesting their property-tax bills in dozens of counties across the country.
They also, as of this week, stopped carrying bullets, particularly the kinds of bullets used in military-style weapons.
More significantly, Walmart asked that its customers stop openly carrying guns into the stores, even in those states where it is legal.
Remember, the El Paso shooting from earlier in August happened inside a Walmart — the company’s initial response, delivered to Bloomberg News via a flack named Randy Hargrove, was, “There’s not been any directive to any stores around the country to change any policy.”
So this is not only a fast 180 from the stance they took the day after a shooting in an actual Walmart, it’s a bold public move from a company that is often aligned with the status quo.
It’s a hit to the bottom line.
By its own estimations, Walmart is responsible for 20 percent of all ammunition sales in the US — one out of every five.
And surely Walmart will be alienating many of the rural consumers on which it relies — though in most of those markets, Walmart has already run everyone else out of business. So it’s a bully-pulpit moment of the sort we’re not used to seeing from the likes of the Walton family. And it’s a rare moment when a for-profit corporation steps in to handle a problem that government is either unwilling or unable to address.
Maybe corporations are people — and it’s good to see them start pulling their weight.