The world’s largest retailer may have to allow its investors to vote on whether it will continue to sell certain firearms and firearm-related accessories, according to a federal judge’s order.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Leonard Stark in Wilmington, Delaware, ruled that Walmart wrongly dismissed a proposal from New York City’s Trinity Wall Street Church that would require the governance committee to review policies on the sale of certain firearms and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Judge Stark said allowing shareholders to have a say in the matter would serve the public interest.
Meanwhile, representatives for the Wall Street Church were pleased with the ruling.
“We believe that on critical issues such as the sale of products that may threaten the safety or well-being of communities, corporate boards must exercise their oversight role to assure balance among customer, shareholder, and societal interests,” the Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper of Trinity Wall Street church said in an online statement Thursday.
“The decision to sell guns equipped with high capacity magazines seems inconsistent to Trinity (and we presume like-minded shareholders), given other merchandising decisions that Wal-Mart has made to protect its reputation and the public,” Cooper continued.
Gun-control advocacy groups also praised the ruling and the actions of the church to foist the proposal on Walmart.
“It’s wonderful to see Walmart’s shareholders taking an active role on this issue,” said Ladd Everitt from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in an email to GunsAmerica. “Walmart has a history of embracing corporate responsibility when it comes to marketing and selling firearms and the approval of this proposal would be a terrific next step down that path.”
Yet, a spokesman for Walmart told Reuters that the Arkansas-based company might appeal the judge’s ruling on the basis that the proposal is overly broad and would impact the way in which the retail giant does business.
“Trinity’s proposal would interfere with Walmart’s ordinary business operations by seeking to regulate Walmart’s daily decisions on the hundreds of thousands of products sold,” said Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesperson.
The National Rifle Association also took issue with the judge’s ruling.
“We strongly disagree with the judge’s ruling. This is a classic case of judicial activism,” said Catherine Mortensen, NRA spokesperson, in an email to GunsAmerica.
Walmart is believed to be the single biggest firearms retailer in the country. What decisions its shareholders make with respect to gun sales could certainly impact its bottom line.