By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters
Recently, Walmart and corporate subsidiary Kroger stores made some announcements, which have been the subject of much discussion. Teeth have been gnashed, garments have been rent, and a whole bunch of people were angry.
Kroger and Walmart stores have announced that open carry of firearms is no longer welcome in their stores, even in open carry states. Walgreens and CVS have followed suit.
Walmart has also announced that it will cease to sell handguns in Alaska – the only jurisdiction where it still sold them – and will cease all ammunition sales. Walmart had discontinued all sales of modern sporting rifles (ARs, AKs; I’m not using the other term since I’m just mentioning them in passing) in 2015.
Is this a tempest in a tactical teapot?
Or is this an incremental erosion of gun rights and of the market support for gun owners?
There are some elements of both.
On the one hand, don’t kid yourself about Walmart’s bottom line, just like you shouldn’t kid yourself about Dick’s Sporting Goods and theirs.
Dick’s Sporting Goods had a mild dip in revenue last year, but has mostly recovered so far this year, according to Newsweek. Gun sales were never much of an earner for them anyway and they only stopped selling AR’s.
What was lost in the conversation was that DSG is already part of a losing battle that has nothing to do with guns, gun rights or anything related to it. Dick’s, you see, is a big-box retailer. If you’ve been paying attention for the past 20 years, those businesses are dying and – again – it has nothing to do with anything that people are liable to bellyache about.
It’s because of Amazon. Get as mad as you want at Dick’s Sporting Goods; your outrage is meaningless. If you really wanted to stick it to them, get a Prime Account.
But this is about Walmart.
To them, it’s much ado about nothing.
Numbers aren’t available (because they don’t publish them) but I guarantee you the margins on sodas and candy bars at checkout alone dwarfs their guns and ammo revenues. Impulse buys at checkout, according to the Center for Science In the Public Interest, were a $5.5 billion industry as of 2012.
After all, Walmart is the single largest retailer in the world. Walmart actually has a larger economy than all but 25 actual countries. If you think that not selling a few boxes of American Eagle or a few Mossberg 590 shotguns is going to hurt them very much, you’re fooling yourself.
Additionally, big box retailers actually don’t occupy a dominant position in the gun industry. Large retail chains such as Walmart, Cabela’s, Dick’s, Bass Pro Shop and so on don’t make up the majority of gun sales nor do they get most of their bottom line from gun sales. Apparel and accessories (no wonder Cabela’s gear is so expensive!) are vastly more profitable.
The majority of gun sales come from – surprise! – local gun stores.
I’ve been going to Walmarts pretty much my entire life and – granted, this is just my anecdotal experience; it’s different for other people – I have never seen anyone buying a gun there. I’ve bought turkey tags and ammo a time or two at Walmart, but I have yet to see anyone filling out Form 4473 in one. And every single Walmart in the area I live in has a gun counter.
Also, just to get it out of the way: Walmart and Kroger’s are businesses. They aren’t public utilities. They have no obligation to respect anyone’s right to open carry, morally or otherwise; their obligation is to make money for stockholders. Period. Allowing open carry is, for any entity, completely, utterly, and totally supererogatory.
But is this an instance of that old saw of the frog in water?
It has some shades of it.
On one hand, Walmart could stop selling all guns today and basically wouldn’t suffer for it; they could make up for that loss with a BOGO sale on Nutella. (Which is infernally addictive.) But on the other, Walmart is the largest retailer pretty much in the world. There are Walmarts everywhere; granted, some people think that isn’t a good thing but that’s beside the point.
Walmart has gone from being something of a gun-friendly place to being a not so gun-friendly place. You can’t buy ammo there, and the only guns you can buy – if you can find anyone at the counter in sporting goods! – are not really in-line with what the modern gun enthusiast buys.
While many of us feel like open carry isn’t what we would do, most gun owners would generally agree that everyone should have the right to open carry if they want to.
It makes people feel like they’re a little less welcome. Like some of us aren’t liked because of this thing that some of us do, which isn’t illegal.
It’s a bit of a weird space. Is it really such a horrible thing, in the grand scheme of things? Not really; far more people concealed rather than open carry and Walmart not selling ammunition. You can get ammunition shipped to your door in most states. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. But it kind of seems like we’re being chipped away at a bit.
Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.