Difficult Choices on Gun Control

Walmart, the nation’s largest seller of guns and ammunition, announced last week that it would no longer sell high-powered assault-type rifles in its retail stores in the United States. The decision followed years of public debate on the subject of gun control in light of a number of active shooter incidents involving these firearms; and pressure for stores throughout the retail industry to stop selling some of the most lethal weapons associated with many of the nation’s mass shootings.

A Walmart spokesman, Kory Lundberg, said the retailer would stop selling modern sporting rifles, which are similar to the AR-15 assault rifle, a semi-automatic weapon which has been sold in locations throughout the retail industry. He added that Walmart would no longer sell any weapons that accept high-capacity ammunition magazines. Lundberg revealed that the rifles would be removed from those locations as the stores are restocked for the fall season.

According to Walmart, the decision to remove the rifles was motivated simply based on sales. The decision was not made based on security or loss prevention concerns, or as a result of public pressure or political motivations. “It was done purely based on customer demand,” Mr. Lundberg said, adding that the assault-style sporting rifles were not “something customers were looking for and buying when they came into our stores.”

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Gun control advocates viewed the company’s action as significant because similar types of weapons were used by shooters in recent massacres, including an attack on a Colorado movie theater and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. They hoped the decision would prompt other major retailers to follow suit. However, there are others that believe that all U.S. citizens have a constitutional right to bear and keep arms, and that these weapons should not be removed from retail shelves.

What do you think? This week’s LP Magazine Instant Poll asked: Do you support Walmart’s decision to pull their offerings of assault-type rifles and similar firearms from store locations?”

The topic of firearms and gun control tends to draw strong opinions from many Americans. However, that passion seems to be shared across many different points of view. Our freedoms carry certain responsibilities, and it’s not always easy to make choices that are intended to protect all of us—but can cause great harm when placed in the hands of a select few from among us. Easy answers are seldom found for these types of complicated questions.

This week’s poll results reflect a similar trend, with opinions spread across all of our different poll options. Looking at results strictly from a “Yes” or “No” response, participants were split almost evenly, with 49 percent indicating that they supported the decision to pull assault-type rifles from the retail store locations, while 51 percent indicated that they did not support this decision.

A review of several national polls revealed comparable results on the subject, fluctuating on both sides of the topic of gun control but remaining fairly evenly split on the responses. Some feel strongly that it is a right that needs to be protected. Others disagree, believing that the potential dangers make the decision much more complicated.

Where there appears to be much stronger agreement, however, involves opinions supporting appropriate controls over the sale of firearms of all types. A review of several national polls showed that Americans firmly believe that steps should be taken to perform background checks and take additional steps to appropriately control firearms sales, an opinion that held true across different political views, gun owners vs. non-gun owners, and other interests as well. Depending on the specific group polled and how the topic and question were presented, these polls typically revealed 74 percent to 97 percent support for such controls. While our opinions may vary regarding the sale and/or ownership of these firearms, there seems to be agreement that appropriate steps should be taken to help deter these weapons from ending up in the wrong hands.

This is also where retail management and loss prevention professionals can have significant influence. Effective policies, stringent controls, detailed audits, appropriate security, robust training programs, and strict enforcement must be the protocol in every retail organization where firearms are sold. Regardless of our personal perspectives on the subject, we should all be able to agree that safe practices and responsible management should always remain a primary responsibility.

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