Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced Tuesday that the retailer would stop selling ammunition for assault-style rifles. He also pledged that customers would be discouraged from carrying guns in stores even in states where it is legal. The company said that it would ask Congress to tighten background checks and reimpose a ban on assault weapons. This singular act of corporate responsibility comes less than a month after a shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, which claimed the lives of 22 innocent people.
Edelman has pledged to donate its services to the Gun Safety Alliance, a consortium of NGOs and companies aiming to reduce gun violence through proper storage of weapons and background checks. As part of our campaign, we have conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,000 Americans 18+ during the week of August 22-26. Here are the key findings:
- CEO Advocacy of Gun Safety Increases Favorability Toward Company—More than two-thirds of respondents said that they would be more favorable about a company if the CEO pushes for background checks of gun purchases at gun shows (68 percent) and universal background checks for all gun buyers (68 percent). And there is broad support for increased funding for education on safe use/storage of guns (63 percent) and requiring individuals to obtain a license before being able to buy a gun (63 percent). There is much less support for banning sales of guns and ammunition (32 percent) and allowing teachers to carry guns in classrooms (35 percent).
- Majority of Republicans Have Increased Favorability Toward Company Endorsing Anti-Gun Violence Initiatives—Fifty-seven percent of Republicans and 65 percent of gun owners are more favorable towards a company whose CEO advocates for background checks. Eighty-one percent of Democrats and 65 percent of Independents are more favorable to companies when the CEO takes that position.
- Low Support for Isolating Gun Makers or Retailers—Under 40 percent of respondents said that they would be more favorable to companies that no longer do business with gun retailers or manufacturers. Forty percent would be more favorable to retailers that no longer offer discounts to members of the National Rifle Association.
- Big Endorsement of Walmart Action—Three-quarters of respondents said that they would feel more favorable toward a retailer that requires background checks for all gun purchases, 63 percent if it no longer offers semi-automatic rifles, and 60 percent if it no longer sold high-capacity ammunition clips. But only 38 percent of respondents said they would view favorably the exit of a retailer from the sale of any guns or accessories.
- Customers More Likely to Buy from Company If CEO Takes Action to Cut Gun Violence—By a four-to-one margin (45 percent to 11 percent), consumers are more likely to purchase a company’s products or services if the CEO has addressed gun violence. This is true of Republicans (29 percent more likely to purchase, 19 percent less likely to purchase), Democrats (62 percent more likely to purchase, 6 percent less likely) and Independents (46 percent more likely to purchase, 17 percent less likely). Gun owners are more inclined by a two-to-one margin to buy products from companies whose CEOs have stepped up on gun violence (38 percent to 17 percent).
Our study should embolden more CEOs to be involved in this vital issue. You will recall the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer finding that 76 percent of respondents want CEOs to speak up on issues of the day and not wait for government, an 11-point increase from 2018. There has never been a more important moment to be heard, to use the CEO’s bully pulpit to push for tangible action in your home community and to use your leverage with elected officials. You have the public’s permission to endorse any one of a number of initiatives, from red flag laws to increased spending on mental health.
Aristotle had a wonderful line that should guide your thinking as a CCO advising the CEO: “There is only one way to avoid criticism. Do nothing. Say nothing. And be nothing.” Let’s follow Doug’s lead, recognizing that everyone wins when business takes a stand on gun violence.
Richard Edelman is president and CEO.