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'Not Enough': Critics Say Walmart Must Go Beyond Corporate PR and Half-Measures on Guns

"We can't rely on corporations to stop gun violence."

Crosses with names of victims are placed near the Walmart center where the Saturday's massive shooting took place, in El Paso, Texas, the United States, Aug. 5, 2019. Walmart came under pressure to end firearm sales after the shooting. On Tuesday the corporation announced it was reducing its sales of guns and ammunition, but some critics said the move did not go far enough. (Photo: Wang Ying/Xinhua via Getty)

Gun control groups on Tuesday praised Walmart after the company announced it would no longer sell certain firearm ammunition and would reduce its gun sales, but the applause came with the awareness that small steps by corporations won't stop gun violence and that lawmakers must take action to stop the epidemic.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon made the announcement the company will no longer sell ammunition for military-style semi-automatic weapons, commonly called assault weapons just days after a gunman killed seven people in Odessa, Texas and a month after 22 people were killed in another mass shooting at one of Walmart's own stores in El Paso, Texas.

The shooters in both attacks were armed with assault weapons. Walmart is also ending sales of handgun ammunition "after selling through our current inventory commitments," McMillon said in a statement, and will stop selling handguns in Alaska, the only state where it currently sells the weapons.

Walmart has "been listening to a lot of people inside and outside our company as we think about the role we can play in helping to make the country safer," McMillon said. "It's clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable."

The gun control group Giffords, headed by shooting survivor and former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, was among those that offered praise.

"Thank you for focusing on both guns and ammunition," tweeted Fred Guttenberg, the father of a student who was killed in a school shooting last year in Parkland, Florida. "America is safer today because of this."

But other critics were hesitant to overstate the difference Walmart's move would make in the safety of American communities, if the U.S. Senate fails to pass bold gun control legislation.

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Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke called Walmart's announcement "a step in the right direction" but warned, "We can't rely on corporations to stop gun violence."

The Democratic-controlled U.S. House passed an expanded background checks bill in February, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to bring the legislation to the Senate floor since then. Universal background checks have the support of about 90 percent of Americans including 74 percent of NRA members. 

"Sen. McConnell: You're up," tweeted March for Our Lives, the grassroots group that was formed last year by survivors of the Parkland shooting.

Meanwhile, others declined to give Walmart credit for working to make American communities safer, saying its new reforms—which include requesting but not requiring that shoppers stop openly carrying firearms and still allows them to carry concealed weapons—do not go nearly far enough.

"Walmart is trying to protect themselves from public and employee backlash" which erupted after the El Paso shooting, CREDO Action co-director Heidi Hess said in a press statement. "Any step that doesn't include ending gun sales full stop isn't enough to show a true commitment to ending gun violence and mass shootings."

On Twitter, some critics said that following the company's latest effort to appease the two-thirds of Americans who are in favor of tighter gun restrictions, advocates should continue their calls for Walmart to end its complicity in the gun violence epidemic.

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