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Can Walmart marshal its business partners to help curb gun violence?


Walmart has been thrust to the epicenter of the roiling U.S. gun violence debate.

In keeping with the old adage, “to whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48), the company is being challenged to champion a business-wide initiative to take a significant stand in this epic national debate.

The Gods of Capitalism have blessed the company as it has become one of the greatest retail behemoths in history. Along the way, not incidentally, Walmart has earned an enviable reputation in corporate social responsibility.

Now, with Congress unlikely to re-convene soon, it falls to the private sector to weigh a new dimension of the “Brands-Taking-Stands” aspect of the CSR evolution.

It’s not as if C.E.O. s and companies have been inactive on the guns control issue. Famously, Ed Stack, Dick’s Sporting Goods C.E.O. ,was an early mover last year when he decided to stop gun sales at the company stores. And Walmart itself has taken steps in that direction.

But this is different. This would be Walmart applying its economic leverage systemically with business partners, not only with gun manufactures but also with the banks, credit card companies and big tech companies with which it interacts.

That is the challenge presented by New York Times business columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin in,

“Dear Walmart C.E.O.: You have Power To Curb Gun violence. Do It.” :

“You, singularly, have a greater chance to use your role as the chief executive of the country’s largest retailer and largest seller of guns – with greater sway over the entire ecosystem that controls gun sales in the United States than any other individual in corporate America …

“Over the past decade, Walmart has spent tens of millions on lobbying efforts in Washington, much of it to push for lower corporate taxes, which have juiced your profits. You’ve also lobbied to combat the opioid epidemic and to support veterans.

It would be easy for you, and other chief executives, to argue that controlling the gun violence epidemic is Washington’s responsibility, not yours. But in an era of epic political dysfunction, corporate executives have a chance to fill that leadership vacuum.”

 Mr. Sorkin concluded  with this plaintive plea:

 “The 22 people who died in your store this past weekend deserve more than words of consolation to their families. They deserve a leader who is going to work to make sure it never happens again.”