Will Wal-Mart Change How Guns Are Sold?

Discussion
Apr 16, 2008

By George Anderson

As the largest retailer in the world, there isn’t much that happens publicly at Wal-Mart that goes by unnoticed. In many cases, the retailer’s actions can lead to changes that go well beyond its stores.

Detractors are quick to dismiss many of Wal-Mart’s initiatives as public relations gimmicks rather than acts of leadership. In the end, however, many often feel compelled to follow its lead regardless of their initial reactions.

That raises the question as to whether others will follow Wal-Mart’s lead as it tightens its rules and procedures for selling firearms.

The retailer announced on Monday that it has adopted a 10-point voluntary code intended to help prevent guns from falling into the hands of criminals. The initiative, the Responsible Firearms Retail Partnership, is being done in cooperation with the bi-partisan group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The program’s implementation timeline has yet to be determined.

The code calls for:

  1. Videotaping
    the sale of all firearms and archiving footage for six months to monitor
    employees and deter illegal purchases.
  2. Creating a computerized log of crime gun traces
    back to the retailer. If a consumer who comes into a store to purchase a
    firearm comes up on a trace, it will be up to the store’s discretion on whether
    to sell them a gun.
  3. Customers purchasing a gun after coming up on the trace alert
    system will be asked to fill out a declaration that they meet all legal requirements
    to purchase a weapon.
  4. Retailers in the program will only accept valid federal
    and state identification.
  5. Signage to be posted that clearly spells out the responsibilities
    of the purchaser.
  6. Criminal background checks for all employees involved in the
    sale of firearms.
  7. Retailers participating in the program to put employees through
    a responsibility-training program. The Responsible Firearms Retail Partnership
    is developing an online training program based on Wal-Mart’s program.
  8. Daily
    and quarterly audits of inventory based on Wal-Mart’s firearms audit program.
  9. Firearm sales to be made only after background check results are in.
  10. All weapons
    to be secured in locked cases or racks in customer accessible areas.

J.P. Suarez, the chief compliance officer for Wal-Mart Stores, said it remains committed to selling firearms. The company is the largest seller of firearms in the nation.

Mr. Suarez said the new program will add to Wal-Mart’s cost of doing business. “The costs are, we think, part of what it takes to be responsible. Everything is not pain-free,” he told The Associated Press.

Discussion Questions: Will others follow Wal-Mart’s lead and join in the Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership? How do you think Wal-Mart’s participation in this program will affect its sales of firearms?

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13 Comments on "Will Wal-Mart Change How Guns Are Sold?"


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Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

Lots of murders involve folks who aren’t professional killers, they’re folks who know each other, involved in domestic disputes. Wal-Mart’s gun procedures won’t prevent those crimes. Best things about the procedures: better public relations and Bloomberg-style legal attacks are less likely to succeed. Someday, not soon, but someday, no publicly-held American retailer will sell guns, ammo, or tobacco products. Blockbuster doesn’t carry pornography, and guns are Wal-Mart’s porno section.

Ben Ball
Guest
14 years 1 month ago
Kudos to the commentators who correctly (in my opinion of course) smoked this out as a Bloomberg appeasement plan. The political implications notwithstanding, there are a few other observations that bear making in this announcement. First, I believe that all of the points except 1, 3, 7 and 10 are already either Federal or in one case, state law. Point 1, maintaining records of firearms purchases, is prohibited by the same legislation that created and funds the NICS (National Instant Background Check System) program, our first and best line of defense against the wrong people purchasing guns at legal outlets, and may well be illegal itself. Points 2 and 3 are redundant to the NICS system–if enforced, it obviates any need or effectiveness for them. Point 7 is accepted practice at all major “big box” gun retailers such as Cabela’s already. Kudos to Wal-Mart for following suit. Point 10 is just common sense retailing for an item with high resale value on the black market. But I guess there is nothing wrong with codifying common… Read more »
Ben Ball
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

And I forgot to mention “…especially when it is done on the anniversary of the VA Tech tragedy.”

Ron Margulis
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

Most mass retailers are out of the gun business, with a few exceptions. I’ll be interested to see if specialty big box retailers Cabela’s, Dick’s and Bass Pro Shops follow their lead. Cabela’s and Bass Pro seem to be taking gun and ammo business away from Wal-Mart in the few markets they’re in while Dick’s is scaling back on the category in several locations.

Also, as a gun owner, I have long believed that gun and ammo retailers should stop feeding on the drivel being dished out by the NRA (disclosure–I canceled my membership in 1995 when the NRA director called ATF agents “jackbooted thugs”) and start thinking about what’s best for their customers. The honest hunters and target shooters, trap and skeet shooters and all other enthusiasts can wait the extra time and expend the extra resources required so they can enjoy their sport. These retailers don’t need to make it any easier to purchase a weapon. In fact, their good customers will understand if it becomes a bit more difficult.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

Well…the REAL statement would be if Wal-Mart just plain stopped selling guns, but clearly the company is not willing to do that.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
14 years 1 month ago

This is fine for the big corporate sellers where employees turnover frequently. However, the small independent gun shops already have very stringent federal and state laws they have to deal with to be licensed to sell guns. When the Feds license an individual, they do a background check (I don’t know how they would do this for Wal-Mart). Other than the video, I think the “voluntary” efforts being made by Wal-Mart pretty much bring them in line with the independents.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 1 month ago
Points 2 and 3 look to me like great big ole gaping loopholes. Consumer shows up on trace but it’s up to the store whether or not to take any notice? Plus expecting said customers to be honest in the declaration they sign? When they have turned up on the trace BECAUSE they can be linked to a crime? Is it me or does this not actually make any kind of sense, negating the apparently very good intentions of the code? Point 7, a responsibility-training program would have its work cut out for it. As Mr. Suarez says, they sure enough are committed to selling firearms. They do not seem to be any more committed to selling them ethically than they are to giving them away for free to anyone who can produce an allegedly legitimate piece of ID (and how hard is it for someone who has already been linked to a crime to figure out how to produce fake ID)? As to the questions, I should think any and every retailer would follow… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

Obviously criminals will continue to buy guns on the corner rather than in the store but I don’t think it’s fair to describe this as a pure P.R. play.

Item number 8 on Wal-Mart’s list will help cut down shrink in the gun department–and I think we all have a pretty good idea where those guns go. Also, there’s no doubt that these kinds of procedures (to some degree or another) limit access to guns by the true crazy or the emotionally overwrought. Finally, the kind of evidence gathered by this process may help in cases of domestic violence (also a crime of course).

So, on the whole the idea seems sound. And…as to P.R…there will be plenty of attention on Wal-Mart for this policy–albeit negative–in key Wal-Mart communities….

Charlie Moro
Guest
Charlie Moro
14 years 1 month ago

Of course other retailers will follow the lead here by Wal-Mart. It’s beyond the issue of gimmick or PR, the issue will be if (God forbid) some gun related tragedy takes place after these safeguards are implemented and not followed by someone who is the source of the purchase, then there will be no PR or social forgiveness forthcoming to that retailer.

David Biernbaum
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

The Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership is a good practice for Wal-Mart, and other major retail chains will probably follow. However, as a community we need to be careful not to over-estimate the end results. There are lots of places to buy, steal, or trade for guns and bullets. Candidly, I’m not so sure that Wal-Mart is where guns are being purchased that get into the wrong hands.

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

This sounds like a feel good PR gimmick. It’s unlikely that a criminal would buy a gun at Wal-Mart. Most criminals would not be able to pass the background check. Much of what Wal-Mart is talking about is already standard procedure.

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
14 years 1 month ago

Responsible retailers will follow suit. Of course, you always have those that really don’t care and are rebels. Interesting; this is a great idea and much better than many of the suggestions of our legislators. Maybe Lee Scott should run for President–just kidding! This is a leadership move the likes of which Wal-Mart is so famous for…kudos!

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
14 years 1 month ago

If so much is already required by legislation, I’m not sure I see the big deal here.

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