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In many a small town in America, the local Walmart acts as the town square. People see people there. Neighbors complain about fire ants in one aisle; in another you'll see your pastor or dentist. Kids roam free. The baseball team is having a fund-raiser out front. You can get flu shots in the pharmacy.

Walmart has become special that way. Name another retailer that pays people to greet you.

But as much as this Arkansas-based company would like to sell a mom-and-pop image, let's face it: Walmart is a behemoth. It has public relations people. And they know what they're doing.

Walmart made the papers this week for revising policies on the sale of ammunition. It's going to stop selling shells for handguns. And it will even stop selling actual handguns in the one state it still does: Alaska.

According to its president and CEO, it's going to focus gun sales "on the needs of hunting and sport-shooting enthusiasts," which might translate into: Get your AR-15s someplace else.

Our considered editorial opinion: Good for Walmart.

For those of us who think that banning certain cool-looking rifles won't do a whit to stop mass shootings, we still understand PR 101. And it's still a free country, last we looked.

Although you might not know it by reading NRA press releases, this isn't a constitutional issue. The Second Amendment prevents the government from infringing on the right of individuals to bear arms. It says nothing about what a private business has to stock on its shelves.

Walmart sells guns at about half of its stores in the United States. A lot of us get our hunting licenses and duck stamps there. But the recent mass shooting in El Paso happened at a Walmart. So the company did what good companies do: It listened to customers and made changes. As for those customers who might be inconvenienced enough to have to drive another block or so to the gun shop, "We hope they will understand," CEO Doug McMillon said.

Most will.

Dick's Sporting Goods announced earlier this year it would stop selling guns at a few of its stores. Kroger came out recently, asking folks not to open-carry in its stores, thank you. Business happens. Or as a president named Coolidge said, the business of America is business.

The NRA, for its part, criticized Walmart. The NRA does some good work, but it has a reputation of being flat-out tone-deaf. It tweeted (of course) this message: "It is shameful to see Walmart succumb to the pressure of the anti-gun elites."

Anti-gun elites? A person can be elite and pro-gun, thank you. Not every egghead wears tweed jackets with elbow patches. Some wear camo. And they understand the liberating independence that business has from government in a free country.

The NRA's tweet continued: "Lines at Walmart will soon be replaced by lines at other retailers who are more supportive of America's fundamental freedoms."

Certainly. And folks who want particular handgun ammo will just have to go elsewhere, just as if Walmart were out of stock that particular day. So why is the NRA so up in arms? (Figuratively, that is.) Nobody's infringing on anybody else's rights. Besides, some of us look forward to a shorter line at a Walmart checkout now and then. It'd be a welcome change.

Starbucks didn't always sell brewed coffee; it sold coffee beans. Avon sold books door-to-door. Wrigley used to give away its gum as an extra for its baking powder business. Nintendo used to sell vacuum cleaners and playing cards. Depending on customers' wants and wishes, businesses pivot, or they wither and die. And nobody--nobody--knows its customers like Walmart.

Folks, if Walmart switches out its Wrigley chewing gum for buttermilk tomorrow, it will be because it knows what it is doing. And knows its customers. That is, most of us.

See you at the town square.

Editorial on 09/07/2019

Print Headline: Guns 'n' ammo

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