Dozens of Walmart workers at an e-commerce facility in San Bruno, California, walked out Wednesday to protest the retailer’s continued sale of firearms, despite two recent deadly mass shootings.
The 40 or so employees stood outside in a circle for 15 minutes, according to The Washington Post. Gathered together, the group hung their heads during a moment of silence for victims of the recent gun violence.
Among the group was e-commerce employee Kate Kesner, who helped organize the protest. “There’s an intense irony that Walmart continues to sell guns despite the constant shootings in its stores,” Kesner said.
While Walmart, the second largest retailer in the world, stopped selling assault rifles in 2015, it still sells firearms in about half of its 4,750 U.S. stores. The retailer also continues to make headlines for its sale of a bullet resistant backpack.
Tom Misner, an operations manager at the San Bruno site, told the Post that he was a firm believer in the Second Amendment, but “I don’t understand how that has included weapons of mass destruction.”
He hopes that the company, which also donates to politicians who accept funding from the National Rifle Association (NRA), would use its might to fight for make-sense gun policy. “Congress will not do anything,” he told the Post.
The walkout at Walmart comes just days after Saturday’s mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart that killed 22 people. Several hours later, a gunman opened fire early Sunday outside a popular nightclub in Dayton, Ohio, killing nine people including his sister.
Mass shootings claim multiple lives and grab headlines, but account for just a small fraction of the deaths attributed to gun violence.
Days before the El Paso shooting, Walmart became the venue for another deadly shooting. In Mississippi, a disgruntled ex-employee returned to the store and shot and killed two managers before being shot and injured by police.
On Wednesday, two men were arrested at a Walmart in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for an isolated incident involving a gun. After one pulled a pair of scissors on the other during an argument, the second brandished his firearm, sending nearby patrons into a panic.
Given the recurring violent incidents, Walmart removing firearms completely from its shelves would seem like a no-brainer to some. But another retailer, Dick’s Sporting Goods, experienced a decline in sales in an apparent backlash after removing firearms and ammunition from its stores in 2018.
Still, while Walmart could play a very important role in the fight to end gun violence, which side of history they will be on stands to be determined. So far, company officials have told the Post that they believe there are more constructive ways for workers to voice their concerns than staging a protest.
“There are more effective channels such as email or leadership conversations. The vast majority of our associates who want to share their views are taking advantage of those options,” said Randy Hargrove, a spokesperson for the retailer.
Organizers of the San Bruno protest also started a Change.org petition to call on company executives to stop selling firearms, and as of publication, it was just 5,000 signatures shy of its 50,000 goal.