The recent shootings at Walmart stores in Texas and Mississippi have brought national attention to the country’s largest retailer and what some have deemed as its moral obligation to confront gun violence in the wake of two dozen deaths.
As the Bentonville, Ark.-based firm faces increasing pressure from individuals and advocacy groups to halt its sale of guns, employees at some of Walmart’s corporate offices staged a walkout protesting the retailer’s sale of firearms. (According to The Washington Post, about 40 workers in the company’s San Bruno, Calif., offices as well as Walmart’s e-commerce offices in New York City and Portland, Ore., participated in the general strike.)
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Prior to the walkout, employee organizers had launched a Change.org petition that called for the ban of open- and concealed-carry weapons in stores as well as urged the retailer to discontinue gun sales and donations to politicians who accept funding from the National Rifle Association.
“We value Walmart and our fellow associates, but we are no longer willing to contribute our labor to a company that profits from the sale of deadly weapons,” the petition read. “We would like to see Walmart take a unified and public stance against guns and gun violence.”
The demonstration came a day after CEO Doug McMillon took a trip to El Paso, Texas, to meet with Walmart employees who worked at the store where a gunman killed 22 people on Saturday. (A week earlier, a suspended employee fatally shot two co-workers at another Walmart location in Southaven, Miss.)
Taking to social media, McMillon shared his experience meeting with workers and first responders as well as praised associates including the store manager who was reportedly leaving the building but ran back inside upon hearing gunshots. (McMillon posted the statement to his personal Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts.)
“As it becomes clear that the shooting in El Paso was motivated by hate, we’re more resolved than ever to foster an inclusive environment where all people are valued and welcomed,” he wrote in the post. “Our store in El Paso is well known as a tight-knit community hub, where we serve customers from both sides of the border. I continue to be amazed at the strength and resilience we find in the diversity of communities where we live and work.”
He added: “We’re a learning organization, and we’ll work to understand the many important issues arising from El Paso and Southaven as well as those raised in the broader national discussion around gun violence. We’ll be thoughtful and deliberate in our responses, and will act in a way that reflects our best values and ideals, focused on the needs of our customers, associates and communities.”
While it has scaled back the sales of certain firearms, Walmart is still widely considered the biggest seller of guns in the United States, and firearms are said to represent a significant portion of its business.
On Monday, a company spokesperson confirmed in an email to FN that it was neither updating its security protocol at stores nor making any changes to its gun sales policy.
Walmart made headlines early last year when it said it would raise the minimum age to 21 from 18 to purchase a firearm as well as remove products that bear resemblance to assault-style rifles. (The announcement came one week after the February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.) Its policy is considerably stricter than current federal laws by requiring customers to pass a background check before being issued a firearm.
Following the Walmart El Paso Shooting, What Are Retailers Doing to Keep Customers Safe?
Walmart Doesn’t Plan to Shift its Gun Policy, Despite Calls for Change