open carry
Change might just be in motion. (Illustration by Julianne Griepp, Laguna College of Art and Design)
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open carry
Change might just be in motion. (Illustration by Julianne Griepp, Laguna College of Art and Design)

It’s not about video games anymore.

There’s little deviation from the pattern. A shooting becomes breaking news, the public awaits the death toll, the right sends thoughts and prayers while the left calls for gun control. And always, the heightened emotions and the pleas for gun control are drowned out in a few days, leaving everyone waiting for the next shooting, the next set of numbers so that the pattern can start again. Recently, there has been one new development thanks to big stores, such as Walmart, who are now discouraging open carry in their establishments.

Over the last month or so, there have been many high profile shootings, one of which happened in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, that left 22 dead, and shortly before that there was another shooting in another Walmart in Southaven, Mississippi, that left two store associates dead.

The Odessa to Midland, Texas shooting occurred just before Walmart CEO, Doug McMillon, sent out a memo detailing steps that the retailer would take in order to keep these kinds of shootings from happening, including “respectfully requesting” that customers no longer exercise the open carrying of firearms in stores.

In immediate response to the El Paso shooting in early August, Walmart’s decision was to pull violent video game displays as an early measure to make customers feel safer in stores. This included unplugging and storing away any games on display that feature violent acts or gun shots that could be confused for the real thing and cause a panic in stores. At the time, there was no plan to cease the sale of firearms or ammunition.

President Trump also focused on blaming video games in the wake of the El Paso shooting, but researchers have found time and again that there’s no connection between aggressive behavior and engagement with violent video games. Unlike the government and its constant stopping block to gun law reform, Walmart acted through McMillon’s memo.

McMillon’s memo states that Walmart will cease to sell various kinds of ammunition. Specifically, the retailer will discontinue selling short-barrel rifle and handgun ammunition and even discontinue handgun sales in Alaska, which will complete their cessation of selling the weapon.

This is all in addition to past measures that Walmart has taken that include not selling military-style weapons, such as the AR-15, raising the age limit to purchase a firearm or ammunition in their stores to 21, videotaping the gun sale counter, only allowing trained associates to work that counter and, of course, requesting that customers don’t openly carry firearms. Open carry is the visible carrying of your firearm in public, usually requiring a special license to do so.

According to McMillon’s memo, there have been several instances in Walmarts across the country where individual customers have entered stores visibly armed to make a statement or to test the responses of Walmart employees, resulting in alarmed customers and store associates.

McMillon cites these events for the retailer’s desire to ban open carry in stores unless you’re an “authorized law enforcement officer.” Enforcement of this new rule will, however, be at the discretion of individual store managers. Some customers violating this rule may be asked to leave or escorted to their vehicles where they will be expected to safely deposit the firearm before returning inside, or no action may be taken at the store manager’s discretion.

Walmart isn’t alone. Soon after the public learned of Walmart’s ban on open carry in stores, other stores such as Kroger, who announced on the same day, said they would also discourage open carry.

Kroger had previously made the decision to completely cease selling guns, which were only sold in their Fred Meyers stores in the Pacific Northwest region of the company.

Walgreens also said in a short statement that it will ban open carry by anyone other than law enforcement and has also supported the group Moms Demand Action. Wegman’s, Meijer and Aldi all joined the movement banning open carry in stores, and CVS went the extra mile to include concealed carry in its tweet on the subject by requesting that regular customers just don’t “bring firearms into our stores.”

The growing movement of stores banning open carry in their stores and deciding not to sell various weapons, ammunition and paraphernalia send concerned customers a message that the government hasn’t sent its concerned constituents: Their plight is heard and important enough to act on.

The first shooting to truly break the mold was the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Students in the school and across the country stood in solidarity with each other and in opposition to the political stalemate that always follows a deadly shooting. High schoolers everywhere sent the government a message, too: We’re ok with being politicized, and if you won’t do it, we’ll politicize our experiences ourselves.

Children and teenagers have essentially taken up the fight for gun control since February 2018, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas survivors such as David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, young as they are, have become staples in the gun control movement. Their stories started the March for Our Lives, a new branch in the fight for gun control. Just like teenagers took a stand after one deadly shooting, Walmart, and the stores in its wake, is taking a stand after the two deadly incidents on its premises.

As mentioned before, the government is in another stalemate over gun control as politicians, led by Trump, blame deadly shootings on violent video games instead of the superfluous access the general public has to guns, and especially military-style weapons.

The battered public, however, is mistaking motorcycles and fighting words for gunshots and shooting threats, causing massive waves of panic across the country, and action must be taken by more than just stores. McMillon included in his memo that he would not only be writing Congress, but that he would be offering Walmart and its decisions up as a resource for future decisions on gun control.

The United States has been led by companies and businesses in many ways, so let’s hope that Walmart banning open carry leads the country into a time for new possibilities on the gun control front.

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