Petition by Walmart employee to protest gun sales gathers over 45,000 signatures

A police officer stands next to a police cordon after a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso,Texas, U.S. August 3, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A petition started by a junior Walmart Inc <WMT.N> worker in California to protest the retailer’s sale of firearms, following two mass shootings over the weekend left 31 people dead in Texas and Ohio, has gathered more than 45,000 signatures.

Thomas Marshall, a 23-year-old category manager in San Bruno began his protest by emailing fellow employees and asking them to call in sick on Tuesday, leave work early on Wednesday, and to sign a Change.org petition.

The petition https://www.change.org/p/doug-mcmillon-stop-the-sale-of-guns-at-walmart-stores?utm_content=bandit-starter_cl_share_content_en-us%3Av4&recruited_by_id=fc7b5740-b810-11e9-be8a-6fbcafd3c27d&recruiter=989859201&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition, which is open to the public, is steadily approaching its goal of 50,000 signatures.

“In light of these recent tragedies — a mere snapshot of the gun violence epidemic plaguing the United States — and in response to Corporate’s inaction, we as employees are organizing several days of action, to protest Walmart’s profit from the sale of firearms and ammunition,” the petition says.

Marshall told Reuters he and other organizers would send the petition to the company’s Chief Executive Doug McMillon after it reaches its target.

Marshall said he was shut out of the company’s email and messaging networks temporarily earlier this week after he started the protest, but that he has since been granted access.

Employees in San Bruno and in Portland, Oregon had walked out on Wednesday in protest of the company’s policy of selling firearms, Marshall said, adding that some Walmart employees in New York also held a minute of silence that day.

Walmart said 40 employees in San Bruno protested by walking out but did not confirm the other details.

“A lot more employees have been reaching out to me to express their support but a majority of those employees are very afraid of retaliation from the company,” he said.

NO CHANGE IN GUN SALE POLICY

Earlier this week, Walmart told Reuters there had been no change in its policy on gun sales after the recent mass shootings, one of which took place in a Walmart store.

Years of public pressure led Walmart, the largest U.S arms retailer, to end assault-rifle sales in 2015 and to raise the minimum age for gun purchases to 21 in 2018.

Some gun control activists and Walmart customers now want the retailer to drop sales of guns and ammunition altogether.

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said on Thursday the company continued to feel there were more appropriate ways for employees to engage with the retailer, including through discussions with top leadership.

He said the company’s policy on selling firearms had not changed.

“We have worked very hard to be a responsible firearms retailer…Walmart does more in the area of background checks than what the federal law requires,” Hargrove added.

The retailer’s Chief Executive Doug McMillon sent a message to employees on social media late on Tuesday, assuring them the company was listening to their concerns.

“We will be thoughtful and deliberate in our responses, and we will act in a way that reflects the best values and ideals of our company,” McMillon said.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Handguns and corsets: Firearms industry strikes gold marketing to women

Claudia Chisholm, CEO of Gun Tote'n Mamas, and Carrie Lightfoot, founder of The Well Armed Woman, pose in the Gun Tote'n Mamas booth during the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

By Daniel Trotta

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – Entrepreneur and fashion designer Anna Taylor is trying to bring back the corset — not to revive Victorian lingerie but to give women a place to carry their handguns.

Cindy Pelletier of Alpharetta, Georgia, looks over a semi-automatic handgun Kimber Micro Bel Air, a .380 ACP caliber, during the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Cindy Pelletier of Alpharetta, Georgia, looks over a semi-automatic handgun Kimber Micro Bel Air, a .380 ACP caliber, during the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

“I don’t know that the corset’s ever been out of fashion, but it’s never been so useful,” Taylor said in Las Vegas at this year’s SHOT Show, the largest trade show for the firearms industry.

After overlooking the women’s market for years, the firearms industry now sees women as the drivers of growth. Gun sales have declined since peaking in 2016, with companies like Remington Outdoor Company Inc going through bankruptcy reorganization last year, but the women’s share of the market has been growing.

Women have led the change, both as consumers and as entrepreneurs in the world of accessories, forcing gun-makers to follow their lead.

Retailers estimate women accounted for 23 percent of the $44 billion retail market for firearms and accessories in 2016, up 7 percentage points from 2010, according to data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which runs the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show.

U.S. firearms sales peaked at 15.7 million in 2016, according to NSSF data. Sales fell to 14 million in 2017 and are on pace to dip again in 2018. The trend reflects politics, with sales driven by fears that a Democratic president will limit gun rights.

and CEO of Dene Adams, displays a concealed-carry holster for women at the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Anna Taylor, founder and CEO of Dene Adams, displays a concealed-carry holster for women at the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

CORSETS AND YOGA PANTS

Taylor created her own company, Dene Adams, in 2013 upon growing frustrated over the lack of holsters for women.

She sewed a neoprene mouse pad into one of her corsets for her first prototype, and now has a lineup of 13 holsters for Dene Adams. Sales reached $250,000 in 2014 and grew to $1 million in 2018, she said.

Among the hot items this year are yoga pants with enough support in the waistband to carry the weight of a gun. Taylor also pulled up the hem of her skirt, showing off her compression shorts with a built-in thigh holster that allows a woman to pack a piece whether she is dressed for a night on the town or Monday morning at the office.

Men’s holsters have traditionally been designed around the belt, but because women wear a variety of outfits they need options in the bra, waist, belly, underarm, thigh, ankle and purse. That also means women need to practice their draw from multiple angles.

Firearms companies once engaged in what is derisively called “pink it and shrink it,” offering traditional guns in feminine colors and promoting smaller guns to fit a woman’s hand, which is not necessarily a solution as lighter guns have more recoil.

Carrie Lightfoot created the Well-Armed Woman in 2012 to give women easier access to information and products and now has 400 chapters across the United States.

Lightfoot said gun makers such as Glock Inc, Sturm Ruger &amp; Company Inc and Walther have since developed more sophisticated products and design changes.

Carrie Lightfoot, the founder of The Well Armed Woman, demonstrates a gun draw from a purse’s holster compartment at the Gun Tote’n Mamas booth during the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Paul Spitale, a senior vice president at Colt’s Manufacturing Company, said the company made famous by the .45-caliber handgun offers a wider range of 9-millimeter options, in part because the 9 mm is by far the most popular choice for women.

The female dollar has also affected the traditionally macho culture of guns and hunting. Major gun and ammunition makers now sponsor female competitive shooters.

SHOT Shows used to feature gun-toting models in high heels and push-up bras but exhibition booths now are staffed by knowledgeable women dressed in polo shirts and tactical gear.

“When I walked into my first SHOT Show in 2009, I was stunned” at what she called the “booth babes,” said Claudia Chisholm, owner of Gun Tote’n Mamas, a company that makes purses for carrying handguns. “It hasn’t caught up yet with the rest of society, but it’s a lot better. Thank God.”

Sales of her handbags, designed to enable women to draw within two seconds, have grown 1,000 percent in the past five years, Chisholm said.

While the U.S. gun rights debate rages, women see their weapons as empowering. At a time when the #MeToo movement has raised awareness of sexual assault, firearms are “the great equalizer,” said Dianna Muller, a retired police officer from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is now a full-time professional shooter.

“Growing up, my generation of women have been told we can do anything that we want,” she said.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Dina Kyriakidou and Lisa Shumaker)