2019 was a year in which the gun debate landed at retail’s door. In August, a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Tex., killing 22 people and injuring 24 others. The following month, the nation’s largest retailer changed its policy to ask customers not to openly carry firearms in its stores, and CEO Doug McMillon called for lawmakers to pass stricter regulations on background checks.
Dozens of other major retailers — including Kroger, CVS Health, Walgreens and Wegmans — followed suit in the ensuing days and weeks, as gun safety advocates on social media put pressure on national and regional chains with hashtags like #GroceriesNotGuns, started by the advocacy group Moms Demand Action.
On Wednesday, a nonprofit coalition called Business Must Act released a scorecard assigning letter grades to 29 top retailers based on their in-store gun policies, political contributions and public statements on gun reform. Companies that the organization determined had no policies against open-carry fared the worst: Nike and Kohl’s were among the retailers that earned “F” grades for having no in-store gun policy, despite both dealing with gun-related incidents at their stores in the past, as the scorecard points out. Kohl’s earned slightly higher marks, though, for not donating to any of the top 25 National Rifle Association-backed lawmakers, while Nike donated $5,000, per the report.
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The coalition said it launched the grading system as a way to push retailers to take action and speak out on gun safety.
“During a period of federal inaction on gun reform, American businesses (particularly consumer-facing retailers that interact with customers on a daily basis) have a civic responsibility to keep their customers and employees safe from gun violence,” it said in a statement.
The businesses that earned top grades all have formal policies requesting that shoppers not openly carry firearms in stores: Walmart and Old Navy both received “A”s, acknowledging their public support of gun reform policies. Walmart was given extra credit for its decision to significantly limit firearm and ammunition sales, also announced this fall, but penalized for its support of NRA-backed politicians — which totaled $181,000, according to the report.
In fact, during the 2018 election cycle, Walmart’s political fundraising group gave $10,000 each to four candidates — Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) — who received A or A+ ratings from the NRA.
Nordstrom, meanwhile, earned a “B” for its no-open-carry policy and lack of political contributions; for an “A,” it would need to speak out on gun reform.
If it eventually does, it will be in good company: The leaders of 145 U.S. companies wrote a letter to members of the Senate in September following the shooting at the El Paso Walmart and another in Dayton, Ohio. Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO Edward Stack, Toms founder Blake Mycoskie and Gap CEO Art Peck were among those that called for background checks on all U.S. gun sales and “red flag” laws that would “allow courts to issue life-saving extreme risk protection orders” to confiscate firearms from people deemed to pose a risk to themselves or others.
“Gun violence in America is not inevitable; it’s preventable,” the letter read. “These proposals are common sense, bipartisan and widely supported by the American public.”
To prepare the report, Business Must Act said it reviewed media archives, industry research, trade publications and other publicly available information during September, October and November 2019.
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