Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Low Prices, High Body Count, Every Day

As if you needed yet another reason to despise Wal-Mart, it turns out they're the country's largest semi-automatic rifle and ammunition dealer too, capitalizing on the NRA's anti-Obama paranoia and riding it to big profits.

In April 2011, Walmart began stocking guns in more and more stores, expanding the sales to 1,750 outlets nationwide. By the end of that year, the FBI received 16.4 million background check requests; the number is 16.8 million this year. Overall Walmart sales figures are back on track after the 2011 slump, and executive vice president Duncan Mac Naughton told shareholders at a meeting in October 2012 that gun sales in particular are a staple of the chain’s strategy to continue boosting its numbers. He said that over the past twenty-six months, gun sales at Walmart stores open for a year or more were up an astonishing 76 percent, while ammunition sales were up 30 percent. Walmart is now the biggest seller of firearms and ammunition in America.

“This gun thing, it’s really just a nightmare,” says Bertha Lewis, president of the Black Institute, which has been organizing Walmart workers this year to protest wages and working conditions. Given its aggressive gun sales, Walmart’s logo “shouldn’t be a smiley face; it should be an automatic weapon,” she adds.

Nearly 400 guns are available in Walmart’s catalog. And even if your local store doesn’t sell a particular model, you can special-order it (assuming you pay half the cost ahead of time). With the exception of its stores in Alaska, Walmart doesn’t sell handguns, though it does sell ammunition for them, along with a wide variety of semiautomatic long-barrel weapons. For example, at half the Walmarts in America, you can buy a semiautomatic Colt M4 OPS .22 rifle; it carries a thirty-round magazine, which you can also purchase in the store. Or perhaps a Sig Sauer M400 semiautomatic assault rifle, advertised on Walmart’s website as “designed for use in law enforcement, military operations…as well as competitive shooting,” which is just one of several AR-15 assault rifles for sale.

In keeping with the store’s pitch as a one-stop destination for shoppers, with everything from gas to groceries, gun enthusiasts can also obtain a wide range of gun accessories—including the 360 types of ammunition listed on Walmart’s website. You can buy a 555-pack of Winchester hollow-point bullets, which the website advertises as “great for plinking and varmints,” but which would cause extensive damage should they enter a human body and expand, as they are designed to do. There are full clips of ammunition for assault rifles, including “quiet ammo” that makes only a quarter of the noise of regular bullets. Laser-pointing sights for handguns are also available, as are belts for holding shotgun shells (only $4.97 at select stores).

So, you can't get a handgun in Wal-Mart (except in Alaska, natch.)  But you can get a semi-automatic rifle "for hunting" and all the ammo you can buy.  In a Wal-Mart.  Need to methodically plot out your mass murder suicide rampage?  Head to Wallyworld!

Or you could choose not to buy anything from there ever again, which seems like a really, really good idea right now.

Not Everybody's Doing The Michi-Gun Rag

The country's reaction to the horrific killings of 20 first-graders among others in Newtown, Connecticut is different this time.  There's action involved.  And normally staunch advocates of the expansion of guns and concealed carry are backing off in the wake of the massacre.  Michigan Republicans are in enough trouble as it is after passing a right-to-work bill to crush unions and a raft of massive and intrusive abortion regulations designed to close clinics in the state:

The approval rating of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is in the gutter, according to a poll released Tuesday, the strongest evidence yet of the political perils associated with the right-to-work legislation he signed into law last week.

According to the latest automated survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, only 38 percent of Michigan voters approve of the job Snyder is doing, compared with 56 percent who disapprove. In PPP's previous survey of Michigan in November, Snyder's approval rating was 10 points above water: 47 percent of voters approved of his performance as governor, while 37 percent disapproved.

Gov. Snyder's popularity has cratered.  So when the third leg of the wingnut trifecta arrived on his desk yesterday, a law expanding concealed carry in places like schools, Snyder quickly vetoed it.

In his veto letter to the state legislature Snyder said the legislation included a key loophole. The buildings in question, Snyder wrote, should be allowed to opt out of allowing concealed weapons.

"I believe that it is important that these public institutions have clear legal authority to ban weapons from their premises," Snyder wrote according to The Detroit Free Press. "Each is entrusted with the care of a vulnerable population and should have the authority to determine whether its mission would be enhanced by the addition of concealed weapons."

Snyder was mulling the bill over before and almost certainly would have been pressured into it, but seeing a nearly 30 point drop in his approval ratings (from plus 10 to minus 18) in the course of one month tends to change a guy's mind, especially since he's up for re-election in 2014.   Even he has his limits, it seems.

Of course, I fully expect the bill to be revised and put back on Snyder's desk in the future with the loophole he wants, and signed into law.  We'll see.

More on this, as always with Michigan politics, at Eclectablog.


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