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"It is shameful to see Walmart succumb to the pressure of anti-gun elites," the National Rifle Association said in a statement Tuesday.

Everything in that statement is wrong.

First, the context; Walmart will stop selling ammunition for the AR-15 and other tactical-style rifles, it announced Tuesday. Such rifles are the weapons of choice for mass shooters. The NRA responded with the quote above.

I strongly recommend reading the Walmart president's memo. It is online at corporate.walmart.com. This was no knee-jerk reaction to last month's mass murder in El Paso. The company had clearly pondered gun-related problems for a while. For instance, the memo addresses the unease of employees and customers about some customers openly carrying firearms into stores. Some states allow this.

The ammo cut-off was one decision of several in the making. The El Paso massacre sealed those decisions.

The most glaring thing wrong with the NRA response is the phrase "anti-gun elites." The anti-gun folks are not "elites" any more. "Elites" by definition mean select groups -- a minority. You have to be in a political coma to still believe the majority among the U.S. public does not want someone -- anyone -- to rein in access to guns.

The NRA is not in a political coma. It is trying to shine a false light. But disagreeing or denying the public's consensus does not make it go away.

An Aug. 14 poll by Fox News spotlights trends that have been building for a decade. Now a whopping 90 percent of Americans favor "requiring criminal background checks on all gun buyers, including those buying at gun shows and private sales." The poll also showed 67 percent -- two out of three -- favor "banning assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons."

Note that semi-automatics are included. Public distaste for unfettered gun ownership is spreading beyond so-called "assault rifles." And yes, I still get annoyed about any gun incapable of fully automatic fire being called an assault rifle.

That latest number about banning "assault rifles" and semi-autos is up 16 percentage points from March 2013. Also, 81 percent support so-called "red flag" laws. Those let authorities temporarily take guns away from people who show signs of being a danger to themselves or others.

The NRA opposes all those measures.

There was an elite applying pressure, all right. It was the NRA. Walmart did not succumb.

Walmart's announcement sets a milestone. Guns were assumed to be a legal and political matter. Not any more. Now society -- including business, many of which are following Walmart's actions -- will fill some of the void left by a so-called representative government that does nothing in the face of what should be overwhelming public pressure.

A consumer research company called CivicScience completed a poll of 1,986 Walmart shoppers by Thursday. Of those, 52 percent said Walmart's actions would make no difference in their decision on where to shop. Meanwhile, a whopping 29 percent said they are now more likely to shop there. The people less inclined to shop there could only muster 19 percent.

Of that 29 percent more willing to shop there now, the breakdown was 22 percent "much more likely" and 7 percent merely "more likely." To phrase that another way, more people who are already Walmart shoppers are "much more likely" to shop at Walmart now than all the "less likely" and "much less likely" combined.

"The NRA is underwater because their extreme agenda has put them out of touch with the political mainstream," John Feinblatt, president of the gun reform group Everytown for Gun Safety, told Newsweek magazine. He is right. Yet gun control advocates still cannot make as much political headway as their public support would seem to ensure them.

Anti-gun groups tend to attribute the NRA's political strength to the money it donates. This is wrong. The NRA's strength is this: Bucking them will get you politically killed in a GOP primary.

Republicans like to mock liberals for their "political purity tests." This is laughable considering how the most demanding political purity test in America is the requirement for unquestioning support for unfettered gun access when running as a Republican. The only thing rivalling it is opposition to abortion access. Opposition to abortion is not nearly so unpopular among general election voters as gun fetishism.

The NRA's power almost completely consists of its followers' disproportionate representation in the primaries of the dominant party. If it can be defeated politically, it will have to be there.

Commentary on 09/07/2019

Print Headline: Walmart and ammo

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