Walmart, the country’s biggest gun seller, with more than 400 guns available in its stores and online, has had its role in America’s gun culture come under scrutiny in the wake of December’s elementary school shooting in Connecticut.
As recently as last October, Walmart executives spoke glowingly of the company’s strong gun sales, pointing to a 76% increase in gun sales and a 30% increase in ammunition sales in the previous six months. Said EVP Duncan MacNaughton: “If you had a chance to get in the Supercenter, this [increase] should have come to life. If you didn’t see it, you weren’t looking, right? That’s about hunting accessories. It is about being proud of the merchandise that we have.”
But since the shooting tragedy, with public concern and debate about guns and gun safety continuing, especially in urban areas where Walmart seeks to expand, company executives have been on the defense:
- More than 120,000 people signed an online petition calling on Walmart to stop selling assault weapons.
- The company initially declined Vice President Biden’s invitation to meet about gun violence, saying that no one was available to attend. Yet after a public outcry, Walmart managed to find an executive to meet with the Vice President. “We underestimated the expectation to attend the meeting,” a Walmart spokesman said.
- Rather than boast about sales numbers, executives were entirely silent on gun and ammunition sales in their report on the 4th quarter of FY 2013. (What happened to being proud of the company’s merchandise?)