Just weeks ago, 22 people were brutally killed while shopping at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Once again, a seemingly safe and public location has become the face of a massacre.
Schools, offices, churches and malls have all been targeted – and frequently. History has shown it’s not the location of the shooting that’s the underlying factor but rather the hatred of the groups that reside within those places. The Charleston shooting, in which Dylann Roof – a white man – killed nine black members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in a hate-fuelled crime, is only one of hundreds of examples.
El Paso was no different. In fact, the shooter confessed he was specifically targeting Mexicans and even wrote a manifesto describing a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
When location plays little to no factor in these attacks, the safety of any public space is threatened. Stores play a special role; as if and when a shooting takes place at a store, the company must respond humanely and compassionately while also representing their brand.
Walmart is in unique and uncharted territory, as the company willingly and independently decided to no longer sell ammunition for military-grade weapons and no longer permit openly carrying weapons in its stores.
In the case of a store shooting, it could be easy to do the minimum: provide new or different training for employees (which Walmart did enact, in addition to it’s new policies), give respects to victims and their loved ones and make a public statement condemning the shooter. The simplest, most pain-free option for the store is to walk the line – offering consolation without making a stance.
For the largest private employer in the country to make a gun-control policy without being told to do so by the government is unprecedented.
Hypothetically, the rule could be up for more than political debate, as Walmart is implementing this policy in states that allow open carry, such as Alabama and Colorado. The policy could be up for a gun rights movement against Walmart – likely lead by the NRA – but it’s unlikely. With Walmart’s economic status and resources, contenders would be crushed.
That’s not to say Walmart isn’t at economic risk because it is. While it’s spreading into cities, Walmart has for many years had a stronghold in rural America, an area that could rebel against this policy, as it contains many open carry states.
More and more brands and corporations are becoming openly political. An example of this is Chick-fil-a, whose CEO opposes same-sex marriage and has spoken out against same-sex marriage and Ben and Jerry’s, on the opposite side of the spectrum, who has openly supported same-sex marriage since 1989. The difference between Walmart and these companies is one word: policy. While other corporations share their opinions, Walmart is letting its actions speak louder than its words.
With Walmart’s success in the United States, it’s likely other companies will be carefully watching. America has always been a country that prioritizes profit, and if this benefits Walmart in the long run, other corporations may follow suit.
Allie Boulier is a freshman biology major. Contact Allie at email@example.com.