by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
I can’t tell you how many rifles, pistols, and handguns I sold during my brief Walmart career. It was the same procedure every time. The customer would fill out a form, I’d take their money, and either hand them the firearm at the counter, or — if they bought ammunition at the same time — walk them to the front of the store before I gave them their new gun. It was a fun job for a teenager, and I learned a great deal about guns.
So I was more interested than most to read about Walmart’s latest retreat from the firearms business. Responding to the recent string of mass shootings — including one in a Walmart store in El Paso — the company announced that it was ending sales of handgun ammunition and ammunition for AR-style rifles. The company’s CEO also called for a debate on renewing an assault weapons ban and for strengthened background checks. Walmart had already largely stopped selling handguns and so-called “assault weapons,” and now a company born and bred in deep-red America was decisively breaking with the culture that was indispensable in making Walmart the mightiest retailer in the land.
Woke capital is here to stay, and Walmart proves it. At first glance, Walmart’s decision is mystifying. What’s next? NASCAR going all-Prius to save the planet? Even if you grant the reality that Walmart has grown far beyond its original red-state base, why would the company want to alienate half their customer base?
But that’s old America-style thinking. This is new America, and new America is in the grips of profound negative polarization.