Citing shootings at stores and restaurants, members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation called upon retailers Friday to ask their customers to leave their guns outside.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty wrote Friday to the president of the National Retail Federation, asking the trade group to adopt “common sense” gun policies for customers and to use its political influence to support strengthening federal gun control policies.
“At Walmart alone, since [the 2012 school shooting in] Newtown, 79 shootings have occurred and 19 fatalities,” Blumenthal said at a Friday press conference. “All across the country retail establishments are less safe, more vulnerable to these kinds of tragedies than ever before. That’s why we are calling on the retail federation to do the right thing. Take voluntary steps to make their customers safer and stand up and speak out.”
The congressional delegation is asking the federation to adopt policies similar to steps taken recently by chains like Starbucks and Chipotle. Those companies asked customers not to bring firearms into their establishments after “open carry” advocates demonstrated at some of their locations by carrying weapons into the stores.
“We do have leaders in the retail and restaurant industry. We hope that the big movers in the retail industry like Walmart and Target will follow the lead of some of these other companies,” Murphy said.
Esty said retailers should be willing to enact the policies without a change in the law “to ensure that when you go in to buy a toy or pick up a cup of coffee you don’t have to worry that a loved one or a child is going to get shot.”
In a written response Friday, National Retail Federation Senior Vice President of Government Relations David French did not directly address the request made by the Connecticut lawmakers, but said the retail industry takes customer safety seriously.
“Retailers are keenly aware of the need to provide a safe and secure environment — to whatever extent possible — in their stores for employees and customers alike and work every day to achieve that mission,” French said in the statement.
During the press conference, Po Murray, vice chair of the Newtown Action Alliance, suggested that mothers who believe in gun control are prepared to organize boycotts in order to force stricter gun policies. She cited Target where a loaded gun was found in the toy aisle of a South Carolina location earlier this month.
But the lawmakers are not just looking for the retail industry to enact “no gun” policies, they are asking for the industry to exert its considerable political influence to push for stricter national gun laws. Specifically, they want big retail companies to support legislation expanding the background checks required for purchasing a firearm.
The bill was raised in the Senate in in 2013 a few months after the school shooting in Newtown, but it fell four votes short of the supermajority it needed to pass. Murphy said the bill still lacked enough support to pass.
“Let’s not kid ourselves — a comprehensive background checks bill is not passing the U.S. Senate between now and the end of the year and our mission now has to be on moving five or six or seven votes so that we can pass that bill in 2015,” he said.
Murphy said gun control supporters are working to form a coalition to drum up support for the bill. He said the 79 shootings at Walmart should be enough to get the retail giant onboard that coalition. Blumenthal said that coalition needs to be able to sway Republicans.
“We need a coalition that is capable of reaching Republicans, where they live, what they care about, and the sources of their financial support. And that is the retailers, the business establishment, manufacturers and even the defense industry,” he said.