The Largest Teachers’ Union in U.S. Calls on Walmart to Ban Guns, Threatens Boycott

Back-to-school shopping season is underway — but some teachers might be steering clear of Walmart.

The largest teachers’ union in the U.S., the American Federation of Teachers, called on the retailer to stop selling guns in an Aug. 7 letter addressed to CEO Doug McMillon. The AFT also asked Walmart to fund gun buyback programs and to stop donating to politicians backed by the National Rifle Association.

“If Walmart continues to provide funding to lawmakers who are standing in the way of gun reform, teachers and students should reconsider doing their back-to-school shopping at your stores,” wrote AFT president Randi Weingarten. “Walmart has millions of customers, and they should all feel safe while shopping.”

The AFT has 1.7 million members, according to its website, making the threat of a boycott significant. The average teacher spends around $500 on school supplies a year.

Walmart is facing increased pressure to quash gun sales after a mass shooting at its Cielo Vista Mall location in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3. Twenty-two people were killed at the store, which was busy with back-to-school shoppers.

Gun sales represent a significant portion of business for Walmart, widely considered the biggest firearms seller in the U.S. Despite criticism following the shooting, the retailer told FN it neither had plans to increase security or to revise its gun sales policies.

To protest Walmart’s firearms sales, some employees at its corporate locations staged a walkout last week. Workers additionally launched a Change.org petition calling on their employer to discontinue gun sales, to ban open- and concealed-carry of guns in stores and to cease donations to NRF-funded politicians.

In 1993, Walmart stopped selling handguns at its then-2,000 stores (except in Alaska), and in 2006, it discontinued the sale of firearms at two-thirds of its stores in the United States. Two years later, the retailer tightened its policy for ammunition sales, implementing what many saw as stricter standards than those of federal background checks.

In 2015, Walmart ended sales of modern sporting rifles, including the AR-15. (The company also doesn’t carry bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and similar accessories.)

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