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.)
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.”
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Last week, our Walmart family suffered two separate acts of violence. It’s difficult to find a word strong enough to describe the way we feel. We’re feeling a range of emotions – shock, anger, grief. We also feel gratitude for the first responders in El Paso and Southaven and are proud of the way associates reacted so courageously. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I’m in El Paso today, and I’ve met heroes. We heard incredible stories of associates who made heroic efforts to get customers to safety. From our manager, Robert, who was leaving the store then ran back when he heard shots, to Gilbert and Lasonya, who helped dozens of customers to safety out the back of the store, to Mayra, who may have been the very first responder, and did an exceptional job bandaging wounds and helping customers escape. I also got to thank Sarah and her team from the Sam’s Club next door for the care they provided to customers. We heard story after story of courageous associates putting others ahead of themselves. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ When the worst happens, we counter with our best selves. We support each other, pray, stand firm and heal together. We’re proud to be woven into the American fabric as a place for all people, a community gathering place. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 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. 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. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 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. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Thanks for what you do every day, especially during this difficult time. I’m grateful to be part of this team and proud of you.
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.
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