Despite Pressure, Walmart Will Continue to Sell Firearms — But Its CEO Supports Stricter Gun Laws

Following a tragic mass shooting this month at its store in El Paso, Texas, Walmart has found itself at the center of the national debate over gun control, facing public criticism from advocacy groups, as well as the largest teachers’ union in the U.S., the American Federation of Teachers.

Today, Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon addressed the issue head-on in the company’s quarterly statement, defending the retail giant’s previous actions to limit access to dangerous weapons and offering his approval of proposed legislation for tougher background checks — albeit in moderate terms.

“In the national conversation around gun safety, we’re encouraged that broad support is emerging to strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger,” McMillon said in the statement, going on to suggest further conversations about gun control would be welcome. “We believe the reauthorization of the assault weapons ban should be debated to determine its effectiveness in keeping weapons made for war out of the hands of mass murderers. We must also do more to understand the root causes that lead to this type of violent behavior.”

While he gave no indication that Walmart would make any immediate changes to its gun sale policies, McMillon noted that the retailer has curtailed its business over the years.

The company stopped, for instance, selling handguns in all states (except Alaska) in the mid-1990s and ceased the sale of military-style rifles, such as the AR-15 in 2015. Then last year, following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Walmart raised the minimum age to 21 from 18 to purchase a firearm. According to McMillon, other precautions in stores include videotaping the points of sale for firearms and requiring a “green light” on all background checks (federal law only requires the absence of a “red light” after three business days).

McMillon also downplayed the size of the retailer’s business from gun sales: “We estimate that we represent about 2 percent of the market for firearms today, which we believe places us outside at least the top three sellers in the industry. We estimate we have about a 20 percent share of ammunition.”

Walmart reported fiscal second-quarter results this morning that surpassed analyst expectations, led by strong comparable-store sales in the U.S. and significant growth in its e-commerce division.

Though its adjusted earnings per share slipped 1.6% to $1.27 during the quarter ended July 26, it still beat Wall Street’s predicted $1.21. Total revenue in Q2 increased 1.8% to $130.4 billion, compared with analysts’ $130.1 billion.

The company delivered U.S. comp sales of 2.8% despite what it described as “a tougher comparison and unseasonable weather to start the quarter.” And the company continued to make its mission to challenge Amazon in the digital space a priority: Walmart’s e-commerce business reported 37% growth that it said reflected strength in its online grocery and Walmart.com.

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