A Christmas Story
By Len Jackson
Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise
So here it is, the season for giving presents. Everyone is making a list, and checking it...well, you get the idea. Since I'm at the stage where I know what I'm going to buy, I started talking to a friend about where. She suggested Wal-Mart and I reflexively said "I never shop at Wal-Mart."
"What do you mean, you never shop at Wal-Mart? Everybody shops there for something!"
Well I don't -- and I have a distinctly Libertarian reason.
First, I'll give you the history.
A year or so ago, some fool went into a Wal-Mart, bought a handgun, walked into the parking lot and blew his brains out. There was immediate public outcry. How could Wal-Mart be so irresponsible as to carry firearms, knowing that human beings occasionally commit suicide? Wal-Mart -- not just the one store, but the chain -- has a responsibility to prevent such events! Didn't we just pass the Brady Bill to prevent exactly this sort of thing? And so on.
Like so many highly visible institutions, Wal-Mart caved in. They accepted their "responsibility", and stopped stocking handguns in their stores. (I'd love to tell you that the suicide rate immediately dropped, but ...)
At this point, being fond of Wal-Mart's low prices, a friend and I (shooters both) complained to our local Wal-Mart store. As you might imagine, we got no satisfaction. We did, however, get the address of someone to write to "at the national level, where those decisions get made". They probably thought they'd never hear from us again.
She did write the letter, in which she stated that, as a Wal-Mart customer, she was disturbed by the decision to not carry any handguns in any Wal-Mart stores. She went on to accuse Wal-Mart of "selling out" to the anti-gunners' desires and of being too lazy to comply with Brady's requirements.
Wal Mart's reply is reproduced below.
Dear Ms. G-:
Thank you for your recent letter regarding our decision concerning the sale of handguns in Wal-Mart stores. All of us at Wal-Mart pride ourselves on being customer oriented -- not only listening to our customers but doing our very best to respond to their suggestions. While our policy beginning February 1, 1994, is to no longer carry handguns in our stores, we are making manufacturers' catalogs available for customers who wish to purchase handguns from Wal-Mart after meeting all state, federal and local laws.
This decision is designed to satisfy as large a segment of our customer base as possible, and in no way is intended to reflect a company position on the actual handgun controversy.
Again, thank you for your inquiry. We continue to value you as a Wal-Mart customer.
Sincerely, David Glass, President and CEO
In other words, "We don't care -- get lost."
Now don't get me wrong. As a Libertarian, I believe that any company has a right to sell any thing. In fact, I'd like to see a much broader selection than we do now. (How about a real Drug Store, for example?) Conversely, I also believe that any company has a right not to sell anything.
Believing this, why don't I even consider the idea of shopping at Wal Mart? Because dollars are votes.
Every time we choose one thing over another, we're voting. When you choose one store rather than another, you're voting for something about the one you patronize: its prices, its location, its selection, its service. Something about the way it does business has convinced you that it deserves your dollars -- your vote.
So, in this season where most of us are spending a lot of votes, consider Wal-Mart's way of doing business.
Despite Glass' denial, Wal-Mart has given in to those demanding voices in our society who want to ban all possession of firearms. It has deliberately decided to make it harder for us to protect our lives, by making the technology more difficult -- and more expensive -- to acquire. And finally, when the problem is brought to its attention by customers, the response is (unfortunately) predictable. Wal-Mart doesn't care about our convenience, our rights -- or even our preferences. Wal-Mart does not care about its customers.
And that is a way of doing business I will never support with my votes -- not when there are so many other choices.
Len Jackson describes herself as a "dilettante and agitator". She practices these arts in a private school where she teaches Latin, Technical Theatre and "young minds the meaning of freedom as well as discipline". In her spare time, she is, among other things, a public speaker and a pistol instructor.
Lighten up, freedom lovers! Here's a good, light libertarian read. When NASA finds intelligent life on another planet, what does the U.S. Government do? Send them foreign aid, of course. Get the exciting details in Savior of Fire by Robert B. Boardman. Send $5.95 + $3.00 S&H to Blue Note Books, POBox 510401, Melbourne Beach, FL 32951. FL slaves :-( add 6% tax.
Next to advance to the next article, or Previous to return to the previous article, or Index to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 3, December, 1995.