In the wake of a mass shooting at a Walmart Inc. store, Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon called for an assault weapons ban to be debated by Congress and said he’s encouraged by growing support for gun-control measures like background checks.
America’s largest retailer has found itself increasingly wading into political debates, at times risking the ire of loyal customers. For the first time, Walmart disclosed that it accounts for about 2% of the U.S. firearms market, which would place it outside the top three sellers. In ammunition, the chain maintains a 20% share.
“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,” McMillon said as part of his written commentary on the company’s earnings. “We must also do more to understand the root causes that lead to this type of violent behavior.”
McMillon also expressed support for stronger background checks and policies that would take weapons away from people who pose immediate danger. Walmart runs background checks on all gun purchases and only sells to customers who have cleared them, the company said.
Walmart was thrust back into the debate over gun control after the Aug. 3 shootings in El Paso, Texas, that left 22 people dead. The retailer has been criticized by gun-control supporters for decades for its decision to keep selling at least some types of firearms. Advocates have won some victories, including Walmart’s decision in 2015 to end sales of military-style rifles.
The company’s response this time has so far centered on removing displays of violent video games, a move criticized by gun-control advocates as feckless. The chain said on Thursday that it was still considering changes. In an open letter posted online after the shootings, McMillon said that the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company will be “thoughtful and deliberate in our responses.”
The shootings have also raised concerns about safety within Walmart’s stores. Just days before, two employees were shot and killed at a location in Mississippi. And since El Paso, there have been numerous threats and incidents, including a man entering a store armed with a rifle. Security has been increased at the El Paso store and a few others, the company said.
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