“Just over three weeks ago, two people in Pennsylvania were killed in their car with ammunition purchased at Walmart.” That’s Letitia James’ opening salvo in her nydailynews.com op-ed, Why New York’s pension funds should divest from Walmart. The New York City public advocate and New York City Employee Retirement System trustee wants the City’s 300k+ retirees to divest their several hundred million dollar stake in Walmart. Because guns. Sorry. Ammunition. And guns. To justify this recommendation, James begins her anti-Walmart polemic with a bout of bloody shirt waving . . .
Over a period of several weeks this spring, a 22-year-old man killed seven men and women in New Jersey and Pennsylvania with ammunition purchased at Walmart. And in March, a Cornell student killed his father in New York using a firearm purchased at Walmart. All this according to reports from local enforcement.
As communities across our nation continue to bleed, one thing is clear: America loves its guns, and no one sells guns better than Walmart.
One thing is clear: Ms. James is vilifying a company selling legal products legally. The fact that a statistically insignificant portion of Walmart’s gun and ammunition buyers eventually use these products illegally is interesting and regrettable, but irrelevant. Certainly no more relevant than ID’ing a car dealership that sold a car to a legal buyer who eventually drove drunk. Or used the car to commit vehicular homicide.
While New York City cannot prevent other jurisdictions from selling firearms, it has taken a powerful stance against guns by divesting pension funds from gun manufacturers.
But the city still invests heavily in gun retailers, like Walmart, that supply guns to millions of Americans that end up on our streets and around the country. In fact, the New York City pension systems collectively hold over five million shares of Walmart stock — totaling hundreds of millions of public pension dollars.
This is why, as both the city’s public advocate and a trustee of the New York City Employee Retirement System, I have formally called on all five of the city’s pension boards to immediately divest all funds from Walmart, the nation’s largest gun and ammunition retailer.
Ms. James is arguing for civilian disarmament. If we can stop people from selling guns and ammunition, we can stop people from buying them and using them illegally or for suicide (which accounts for roughly half of the quoted firearms-related homicide statistic). It’s a ridiculous argument on so many levels.
Practically speaking, America has at least 300 million guns in circulation. If Walmart disappeared tomorrow, there’d still be plenty of guns for criminals, crazies and the suicidal. Not to mention the fact that some other company would pick up the slack and sell new guns and ammo to legal customers (as is their right).
Politically speaking, Americans cherish their gun rights. Any and all anti-gun jihads are met with fierce opposition – even those mooted by a taxpayer-funded New York teachers union pension fund in a state so blue you have to wonder when it’s going to die of asphyxiation. Which is why James tries to draw a distinction between the “good” guns Walmart sells (e.g., hunting rifles) and the “bad” guns Walmart sells (e.g., “assault rifles”). Like this:
Walmart markets its gun department as “sports and outdoors,’ but let us get one thing straight: They are not just selling hunting rifles. Walmart stocks assault rifles with high-capacity magazines and ammunition. Nearly half of their U.S. stores sell guns and ammunition, and more than a quarter of all Walmart locations sell semi-automatic weapons.
It is time for us to soundly reject the notion that high-capacity magazines and military-style assault weapons have any legitimate purpose in our society. Walmart CEO Douglas McMillon has been clear that Walmart will continue to sell guns, saying that the sports and outdoors department is an integral part of the company.
And Walmart has doubled down on its shameless gun peddling by actively opposing stricter gun regulations through its political contributions. Walmart’s PAC has given millions to candidates endorsed by the National Rifle Association over the last several election cycles.
Prior to succumbing to increased public scrutiny, Walmart also supported the American Legislative Exchange Council — a conservative advocacy group that actively opposes sensible gun reform and who played a direct role in drafting Florida’s infamous “Stand Your Ground” law.
I’d almost kinda respect Ms. James’ call for Walmart divestment if it were based on moral principles. But Ms. James’ divestment campaign is entirely based on pragmatism. Like so many progressives, her desire to “improve” society (by disarming it) is motivated by a simple, amoral philosophy: the ends justify the means. Her desire to “help others” – for their own good – lacks any respect for individual choice. Or individual rights. It is a hurtful, hateful perspective.
Walmart recently made a big show out of its decision to stop selling Confederate flags. But it means nothing to stop selling symbols of hate, when they continue to sell the tools used to turn that hate into deadly violence.
If we want real change, we have to hit Walmart where it hurts: in their pocketbook. New York City must divest the hundreds of millions of dollars we have invested in Walmart for far too long, dollars that are only fueling violence and undermining the greater public interest. Once our nation’s largest city does so, I know other states and municipalities will follow suit.
Should Walmart cave to James and her bully boys, gun-owning Americans will remove their financial contribution to the company’s success. Walmart knows this. They will continue to sell firearms, just as James and her ilk will continue to attack firearms freedom in all its forms. And so it goes.