Retail route to gun control

Jan. 27, 2013 @ 04:30 AM

Most of the attention surrounding gun control, since the Newtown, Conn., massacre last month, focuses on laws, but some activists are taking a different approach to limit public access to firearms.
National organizations such as SumOfUs, which challenges practices of large corporations, are pressuring the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., to stop selling assault weapons.
“Walmart’s firearms sales grew by 76 percent in 2011, making it the largest gun dealer in the country,” according to a statement from SumOfUs, the liberal-leaning organization that has offices in Washington, D.C., and New York.
Activists taking a retail approach to gun control hope they can skirt hot-button issues around the Second Amendment, limiting access to assault weapons by whittling the number of places where people can buy them.
“We launched this campaign with the hope that, regardless of what happens in Washington, Walmart will act and take the guns off their shelves. There’s no law that says Walmart has to sell assault rifles,” SumOfUs Campaign Manager Kaytee Riek told The High Point Enterprise.
Walmart had not responded to a request from the Enterprise for a position on its firearms sales as of Friday. Earlier this month, during meetings at the White House to discuss gun control issues, Walmart issued a statement saying it “has been engaged in a national dialogue about the responsible sale and regulation of firearms.”
Walmart contends that it strikes a balance between proper sales of guns to hunters and sportsmen and working with other parties to ensure that its gun sales are legal and responsible.
“We take this issue very seriously and are committed to staying engaged in this discussion as the administration (of President Barack Obama) and Congress work toward a consensus on the right path forward,” stated David Tovar, vice president of corporate communications with Walmart.
So far, SumOfUs has limited its assault weapons sale campaign to Walmart, though Riek said the group leaves open the possibility of expanding the effort to other retailers in the future. She emphasized that the campaign doesn’t cover other weapons, such as hunting rifles sold to sporting enthusiasts.
“We’re just talking about assault weapons, like the AR-15 or others with high-capacity magazines. The ones that have been used in the mass shootings of late,” Riek told the Enterprise.
A High Point University professor said the Walmart effort reflects a motive by some activists to bypass drawn-out legislative campaigns and the complications that come with political deliberations.
“There’s a frustration and a feeling of powerlessness about getting anything done on a legal level or with representative government,” said Josh Fisher, an assistant professor of anthropology who researches issues such as fair trade and movements against sweatshop labor.
A consumer campaign over assault weapons, for example, could bypass volatile Second Amendment debates but still reduce public access to the weapons, Fisher said.
“You find pockets where you can make change,” the professor said.

pjohnson@hpe.com | 888-3528