CSR champion or 2nd Amendment stalwart? Wal*Mart at cross-roads over “assault weapons”

Wal-Mart once again finds itself at a reputational inflection point, in the cross-hairs of critics for the sale of so-called assault rifles just as the national debate over gun control comes to a crescendo.

After making two strong statements earlier this month on its commitment to CSR (detailed in my previous post), the world’s #1 retailer must decide whether it is better off to forego the sales of the profitable military-style, semi-automatic weapons consistent with its family-friendly identity … or stand-up for the undiluted Second Amendment rights of its gun-loving customers.

With recent mass killings fresh in the national pysche, Wal-mart is not going to get a pass on this issue. Company execs initially declined a White House invitation to participate in VP Joe Biden’s taskforce on gun violence, then relented and attended the meeting January 10 (a company spokesperson saying the company had “underestimated the expectation to attend“).

Now comes pressure to act from both the Administration and the groundswell of well-organized gun-violence protesters. With the bill that would ban assault weapons facing long odds in Senate, let alone the Republican-controlled House, a move by Wal-Mart to remove semi-automatic rifles from its stores would be applauded as a significant step toward common-sense reform by gun-control advocates–but be seen as a major betrayal by gun-rights advocates. Wal-Mart has millions of customers in each camp and no easy choice.

According to a Bloomberg story, Wal-Mart  already adheres to “eight of ten criteria of the Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership” including background checks and videotaping of firearms purchases. But the flash point is the selling of semi-automatic “assault weapons” (or “Modern Sporting Rifle“, if you prefer) at about 1,200 of Wal-Mart’s almost 4,000 stores in the U.S.

Here’s betting that Wal-Mart opts to discontinue the sale of the controversial semi-automatics while strongly reaffirming its commitment to responsibly sell guns and ammunition for hunting and sports-shooting. And maybe run a big sale on clay-pigeons and shot-gun shells.

- Jon Harmon

 

 

Speak Your Mind

*