Walmart has no policy on guns. Just about anything that is legal in your state is perfectly acceptable at your local Walmart, and sadly, when it comes to guns, most things are now legal in most states. That is why Leonard Papania, the Chief of Police in Gulfport, Mississippi, went on such a rampage a couple of days ago. No, Chief Papania did not pull his personal sidearm and start firing, but he instead held a press conference where he lambasted Mississippi lawmakers over the "open carry" law that had been passed by the legislature.
The thing that got Chief Papania so riled up was a very scary incident at a Gulfport Walmart. Two men had entered the store carrying a shotgun. Once inside the store, the one holding the weapon stopped to "load and rack" it, an event which scared the living crap out of many shoppers and caused a flood of 911 calls to the local police department. By the time deputies responded, the men had taken their shotgun and left the store. The police reviewed a tape of the incident and then telephoned the culprits who quickly informed them that they were exercising their lawful right to carry a gun in public and had broken no laws - and the police could, presumably, shove their interest in the matter up where the sun doesn't shine.
But Chief Papania would not go quietly into that dark hole. He instead chose to attack the problem head-on by calling attention to the people who had done so much to create the dangerous situation in the first place: the dumb asses who serve in the Mississippi state legislature.
The problem, unfortunately, goes well beyond the borders of Mississippi. Most states now have versions of "concealed carry" and "open carry" laws, legislation pushed upon them by the profit-driven nabobs from gun lobbies like the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America. Most states have also passed what are commonly referred to as "stand your ground" laws which give people the right to start firing if they "feel" threatened.
It is now a risky business to enter many retail establishments - or even to go to church to pray.
What makes these laws even more troubling is the fact that they appear to be based in race. A white man "standing his ground" and shooting a black man is likely to go free, even if he is a known racist vigilante, while a black man pulling a gun on a white, under any circumstances, will more than likely end his day wearing a toe tag in the morgue.
And the racial disparity is even more obvious in the "open carry" cases. Those two yahoos down in Mississippi walked out of that Walmart as free men possessing gun rights, but last September at another Walmart a young black man by the name of John Crawford was shot and killed by police while only playing with a toy gun.
What would happen if young black men across the nation suddenly decided to do their Walmart, Target, or Home Depot shopping while openly carrying guns? Sadly, we all know the answer to that one. The rights to carry weapons, concealed or openly, and to stand one's ground were drafted for the benefit of white Americans - with the intent of keeping "others" in their places.
(On June 7, 2015, I wrote a similar piece in this space entitled "Jim Crow Is Alive and Packing Heat." It discussed a YouTube video showing how police reacted very differently to two individuals openly carrying - one white and the other black.)
America's gun laws have been crafted and utilized with racist intent. Any non-white citizen who ventures into a local Walmart with a shotgun in hand - and particularly if he stops to load that shotgun once he is in the store - will more than likely be lethally stopped by a patriotic goober who is standing his ground. A couple of whites, however, doing the same thing are able to walk out of the store, free and healthy men, and go home and taunt the police.
It's time for all people to truly be treated as equals - and it's well past time for Walmart and other national retailers to develop gun policies designed to protect shoppers. If the nation's legislators abdicate their responsibility for the public safety, then retailers need to begin filling that void.
More guns mean more crime, more death, and more entrenched racism.