Walmart Responds to El Paso

Military personnel gathers outside Walmart in El Paso, Texas (New York Times)

Ashna Satpathy
Shopping for school supplies is one of the most ordinary things families can do in early August, a time when kids’ brains slowly start shifting from summer to the beginning of school. What’s not so normal, however, is just after 10:30 a.m, when you’re searching for the loose leaf paper that’s hidden in one of the many aisles’ shelves, is hearing a loud boom followed by panic and screams. Feeling your mother grip your arm and before you know it, you are running away from where you thought you heard the noise. 
You find out later that 22 people were killed in that same Walmart that you went to, and your only intention was getting what you need to prepare for the upcoming school year.  
This situation became the grim reality for shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, last August 3. In response to this egregious act of violence, and with increasing pressure from the public, Walmart has announced that it will stop selling ammunition for handguns and some assault style rifles and has asked shoppers not to openly carry guns while shopping at its stores.
Since the Columbine shooting in 1999, the United States has suffered through over 230 school shootings and more than 228,000 students have experienced gun violence at schools, according to the Washington Post. Other shootings such as those at bars in Dayton, Ohio, and Thousand Oaks California, illustrate the alarming truth that regardless of where, a tragedy such as these could occur at any moment. Anyone can be at the wrong place at the wrong time, like those shopping at Walmart in El Paso. Without major changes and reforms, there is really no getting around this scary possibility. 
Walmart’s response to the shooting is not the beginning of the store’s discontinuation of the sale of certain firearms; they stopped selling military style rifles in 2015. Changes such as these can make a large impact, as Walmart has consistently made up about 20 percent of the ammunition market. After its new regulations, Walmart claims that this percentage should fall to as low as 6 percent. 
Senior Maya Passman, one of the heads of Latin’s new club called March for Our Lives, a local branch of the larger organization, believes that Walmart banning ammunition sale for handguns and assault rifles “is really amazing; having guns in Walmart makes them so much more accessible to Americans, and this will make guns, hopefully, harder to access” and co-head Aoife Reynolds feels similarly: “it sends a clear message that guns should not be a part of everyday activities like grocery shopping and that gun culture needs to change.” Co-head Dash Rierson has “moderate optimism; it won’t prevent gun violence, but simply reducing the amount of guns in the hands of Americans is a positive in terms of accidental gun deaths. It’s a step in the right direction, but more of an optics and business decision than one made out of genuine concern for the public.”
In terms of impact, the heads have different perspectives. Maya believes that Walmart’s new reforms will make a big impact because “taking [handguns and assault rifles] away from such a landmark of America will allow guns to, slowly, become less of a staple in American culture.” Aoife, however, finds the ban on open firearms to fall short as they didn’t ban the carrying of concealed firearms. Dash believes “the efficiency of gun control policies is dependent on their universality. If this spurs a trend of other gun vendors ending gun sales, perhaps that helps, but still a lot of work, specifically in terms of public policy, needs to be done.” All three heads agreed that the goal, which Aoife described is “to make people feel safe and protected against the abuse of guns” is still far away, especially given the current administration’s pro gun stance. 
But whether their ultimate goal is to make everyone in America feel safe against guns is still under debate; does a lack of guns make people feel safe against a possible shooting, or does the right to a gun make one feel safe in case there comes a need for self defense? 
Dash explained that the goals of the new club are to “educate and utilize a motivated Latin student body. I think that Latin students care deeply about these issues as demonstrated by the walkout, and only need opportunities to express that passion. Focusing and harnessing that passion is the ultimate goal of this club” and Maya also added that they want to organize “lunches, assemblies, and eventually a walkout.”
While Walmart has made strides to become a smaller player in the market for ammunition, it is still difficult to see where the country is going in terms of ending gun violence. The second amendment is one that can be widely debated, but there is no doubt that America has an issue with gun violence. How providers of ammunition, such as Walmart, choose to react to this issue will be a major factor in how America will tackle the issue of gun violence.