This matters: One of the most powerful companies in America, a corporation controlled by conservatives, whose stores serve as de facto public squares in many small towns, is ending sales of certain short-barrel rifle and handgun ammunition. And asking customers to stop openly carrying firearms in its stores.
It’s a devastating real-world indictment of the “more guns, less crime” orthodoxy that Republicans in Congress still pitifully cling to against all evidence, made all the more powerful because an El Paso, Texas, Walmart was where a gunman killed 22 people last month, a month in which 53 people died in mass shootings.
And yet, one retailer’s willingness to swim against the tide of the United States’ enduring gun insanity depresses as much as it impresses. Because the exception here proves the rule: In most American states, there are precious few curbs on anyone buying an assault rifle capable of killing scores of people. Or purchasing a high-capacity magazine enabling a mass murderer to tear bodies apart without pausing to reload. Or getting a hold of loads of ammo, cheap, to carry out the killing.
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Most guns are bought not at big-box stores, but at smaller retailers. Gun stores number more than 60,000 coast to coast. That’s more than there are grocery stores, McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. Online sales enable easy purchase without even having to leave the couch, and often without a background check.
Walmart has made an important statement: that a retailer beloved in deep red America need not continue to bow before the altar of the gun.
But unless and until Congress requires universal background checks on all firearm sales, strengthens red-flag laws and outright bans assault rifles and high-capacity magazines that are the equipment of choice for so many massacres, America will remain one nation, under the gun.