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Swift about-face by Walmart, America's big box gun store

Walmart will show up at the White House.
Reuters/Jonathan Alcorn
Reuters/Jonathan Alcorn

Walmart will show up at the White House.

Less than two hours—86 minutes, in fact—elapsed between Martin Bashir's confirmation that the mega-retailer was declining an invitation from Vice President Biden to attend Thursday’s meeting, which will also include the NRA, and the company's swift public schedule update.

The statement, which cites an ongoing role in the “national dialogue” about guns as well as a relationship with anti-gun crusader Mayor Mike Bloomberg, reveals the sudden public relations backlash the frequent lightning rod must have endured.

“We underestimated the expectation to attend the meeting on Thursday in person, so we are sending an appropriate representative to participate,” the statement, issued by corporate communications VP David Tovar, admits.

The company deserves credit for underestimating public opinion and their attendance is absolutely a good thing.

But let’s reserve some judgment.

This is, after all, America’s premier gun retailer, at least in terms of volume of guns and ammunition sold.

On the Walmart homepage, a search for the word “gun” produces 2,940 results; from there, navigate to “Guns, Rifles and Ammunition – Store Only” to find 394 items listed; choose from the top row and you can browse a semi-automatic weapon like this.

Whatever gun control reforms Biden ultimately recommends and whatever the president and Congress attempt to pass (or block) may well hit Walmart’s bottom line.

The banning of any specific gun models means fewer guns to showcase for customers. A prohibitive tax on firearms would presumably drive down sales. Deeper background checks or some kind of registry would likely come with significant overhead cost.

So, sure, the company gets a day pass—but let’s see what role the box store chooses to take at the meeting Thursday and beyond.

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