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“A Transparent Public Relations Ploy”: Don’t Be Fooled, Walmart Hasn’t Changed Anything

In this week’s issue, we describe how Walmart has expanded gun sales—including military-style assault weapons—to half of its stores nationwide, and is the country’s biggest retailer of guns and ammunition in the country.

As our story was about to be published, Walmart removed a Bushmaster AR-15 style assault rifle, the same gun Adam Lanza used to carry out his attack on the Sandy Hook Elementary School, from its website. All of the other assault weapons remain. (See other examples here).

This is one of the most transparent public relations moves in relation to a dangerous product that I can recall—it was literally the least Walmart could do. To be clear, the store never actually sold the guns online. Rather, you can peruse Walmart’s gun inventory on its website, read customer reviews and product specifications and then find a Walmart near you that carries the item.

All Walmart did was remove that one gun, the one most likely to create a public relations problem, from a website where you couldn’t buy it anyway. But the Bushmaster remains on Walmart shelves—something the retail giant confirmed to MSNBC this afternoon, saying there is “no change” to its firearm sales.

Other retail chains, however, are making changes—though only slightly more substantial than Walmart’s URL adjustment. Dick’s Sporting Goods is “suspending” sales of some rifles in stores nationwide during “this time of national mourning,” and taking all guns out of stores located near Newtown, Connecticut. Cabela’s will stop selling AR-15s in Connecticut only.

If Walmart were to curtail weapons sales, however, it wouldn’t just hurt their bottom line. Freedom Group, one of the largest gun manufacturers in the country with $237.9 million in annual sales, said in its most recent financial statement that Walmart accounts for 13 percent of those sales alone, and warned investors of trouble should Walmart ever change its policy:

Our sales to Wal-Mart are generally not governed by a written long-term contract between the parties. In the event that Wal-Mart were to significantly reduce or terminate its purchases of firearms, ammunition and/or other products from us, our financial condition or results of operations and cash flows could be adversely affected.

Freedom Group was dumped today by its private equity owner, Cerberus Capital, following investor pressure. They’re in for more trouble if Walmart stops selling guns—but don’t look for that to happen anytime soon, based on how the retail giant has responded so far.

 

By: George Zornick, The Nation, December 18, 2012

December 20, 2012 Posted by | Corporations, Guns | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Culture Of Violence”: The National Rifle Association Is The Problem

As a political consultant and Senate staffer, I have worked for a lot of office holders and candidates who were strong advocates of hunting and the Second Amendment.

For many years, I worked a lot in the West and in rural districts. I cut my share of ads with candidates out in the prairies or the mountains with their guns and dogs. I have also done ads for the Humane Society of the United States that excoriated practices such as bear-baiting, canned hunts, and trophy hunting, as well as ads on animal cruelty.

The defense of hunters was always used by the National Rifle Association as a cornerstone of their programs. They pushed gun safety and the proper care and use of guns; they conducted camps and taught people how to shoot.

But as their power and finances grew, a lot changed. More and more, we were urged to get guns to “protect ourselves” or to become a collector. Guns for guns’ sake. The technology got more and more sophisticated. Weapons could shoot more rapid-fire bullets and the bullets became more lethal. Cop killer bullets, some were called.

The NRA raised more and more money to attack politicians who argued for reasonable checks at gun shows or opposed carrying concealed weapons into schools or churches or community centers. You were either with them all the way or against them—no middle ground.

For the NRA, it became about expansion of gun sales and ammunition sales. Why were 300 million guns not enough? Why do we need assault rifles that can penetrate body armor? Why do we need to lift the restrictions on where guns can be carried?

Follow the money.

Last year, according to the Washington Post, gun sales topped $12 billion. The gun manufacturers collected nearly a billion in profit. There were nearly 6 million guns bought last year. Six million.

This is absurd.

This isn’t about hunting. This isn’t even about protection. This is about money.

The NRA answers to the gun manufacturers, the ammunition makers, but rarely to their members.

I don’t think we will see much at Friday’s NRA press conference: words about kids and families, some minor bromides thrown out. But they are the problem.

I have had it with groups like the NRA who must take a large share of the blame for the culture of violence that engulfs our country. More and better weapons are leading to larger and more devastating slaughters, more murders on our streets, more domestic arguments that turn deadly. Yes, guns kill people. More and more frequently we see their devastation. More and more we see lives and communities ruined. It is time to tell the money-men behind these weapons of mass destruction that enough is enough. It is time we became a civilized nation. It is time to take on the NRA and the gun manufacturers. And, maybe, just maybe, it is time for them to admit the truth and do something about it.

 

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, December 19, 2012

December 20, 2012 Posted by | Public Safety | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Gun Frenzy”: Nothing Warms The Heart For The Holidays Like Cold Steel

President Obama’s election and recent re-election have apparently fueled a gun-buying craze in this country unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times.

USA Today reported this week:

“For the second consecutive year, prospective gun buyers joined Black Friday shoppers in record numbers as firearms dealers swamped the F.B.I. with required buyer background check requests. The F.B.I. fielded 154,873 calls, a roughly 20 percent increase from last year’s previous one-day record of 129,166, according to bureau records. The requests came in such volume throughout the day that F.B.I. call centers experienced two brief outages — one of 18 minutes and one for 14 minutes — during the busy day, bureau spokesman Stephen Fischer said Monday.”

As the report made clear:

“The F.B.I. does not track actual gun sales. But the number of firearms sold Friday is likely higher because multiple firearms can be included in one transaction by a single buyer.”

According to the F.B.I.’s data, the number of requests for background checks normally peaks toward the end of the year. Nothing warms the heart for the holidays like cold steel.

The F.B.I. has conducted nearly 156 million background checks for gun purchases from November 1998 to October 2012 (the last month for which they have published data) and a full 40 percent of those checks occurred in just the four years since President Obama was first elected.

This week the popular conservative Web site World Net Daily quoted the National Rifle Association spokeswoman Jacqueline Otto as saying that the N.R.A. is not surprised by the surging gun sales because gun owners “are very informed voters and they have known that President Obama has opposed our Second Amendment rights his entire political career.”

Then they quoted her as follows:

“Gun sales are undoubtedly going up because gun owners know that at best President Obama wants to make guns and ammunition more expensive through increased taxes and regulation, and at worst he wants to make them totally illegal.”

That’s the N.R.A. line. Here is the reality. The president has done almost nothing in his first term to restrict gun ownership. As The Washington Post’s blog The Fix reported in July:

“The president signed bills allowing guns in national parks and on Amtrak. He has not pushed for the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban — and Attorney General Eric Holder was reportedly chastised for suggesting he would. Nor has he moved towards closing the gun-show loophole.”

That loophole allows guns to be bought from private dealers at gun shows without a background check.

During the second presidential debate with Mitt Romney, however, Obama said:

“But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced, but part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence, because frankly, in my hometown of Chicago, there’s an awful lot of violence, and they’re not using AK-47s, they’re using cheap handguns.”

That’s sounds mild and logical to me, but the N.R.A. took it as a shot across the bow. They started running ads in swing states that said, “Defend freedom, defeat Obama.”

In fact, it should be noted that, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, gun lobbyists contributed more than $3 million in the 2012 election cycle, and 96 percent of those contributions went to Republicans. That was the highest percentage going to Republicans since the center began providing comparable data.

The World Net Daily article also pointed out that “gun owners also are worried because just hours after Obama’s re-election, the U.S. signaled its support for a U.N. committee’s call to renew debate over a draft international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global conventional arms trade.”

But as Reuters pointed out this month: “U.S. officials have acknowledged privately that the treaty under discussion would have no effect on domestic gun sales and ownership because it would apply only to exports.”

And it’s not like we need more guns, anyway. The United States has more guns per capita than any country on the planet.

All the while, stocks of gun makers are going through the roof. Smith & Wesson’s stock is up 280 percent since last year. Sturm, Ruger and Company’s stock is up 96 percent from last year.

Welcome to the Great American Arming.

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, November 29, 2012

December 2, 2012 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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