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Wal-Mart Takes Aim

In Fort Gibson, Oklahoma on December 7, 1999 a 13-year-old boy shot four classmates at school with his father's handgun. His father had purchased the gun six years earlier at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart had stopped stocking handguns in its stores in 1993, but not before the boy's father had purchased the gun that would bring tragedy six years later.

Wal-Mart is now the world's largest corporation. With annual sales of $218 billion, Wal-Mart rivals the gross domestic product of the world's 22nd largest economy, Austria. Wal-Mart is the world's largest overall retailer, and sells more groceries, toys, and jewelry than any other chain in the United States. It is also the world's largest private employer, with 1.2 million people.

A company this successful does not need to sell handgun ammunition. But still, Wal-Mart, which does not release sales figures on its ammunition, continues to sell handgun bullets, bullets that kill people. People that die because Wal-Mart sells bullets. Here are just a few of these people:

On August 27, 1999 Bryan Midgette was arrested for abusing his wife, Marsha. Despite a restraining order, Bryan tracked Marsha down three days later at the Wal-Mart in Pottstown, Pennsylvania where she worked. He purchased bullets for his .22 caliber handgun in the store, then chased Marsha through the aisles and shot her before killing himself. Marsha survived, but suffers from severe brain damage.

For ten years, James Easton Kelly had studied towards a graduate degree in English at the University of Arkansas. Then, his professor, John R. Locke, informed him that due to his lack of progress towards his doctorate, the school was dismissing him. At 11:27 AM on Monday, August 28th, 2000 Kelly went to a Wal-Mart 10 miles from the Fayetteville campus and purchased 50 rounds of .38 caliber bullets. He then returned to the school, went to Locke's office and, shortly after noon, shot Locke three times, killing him instantly. Kelly then turned the gun on himself.

On May 22, 2001 Laura Gassaway entered a Wal-Mart in Rockford, Illinois, went to the sporting goods section and tried to purchase bullets for her handgun. After the clerk refused to sell to her because she did not have a state firearm owners identification card, Gassaway began shoplifting other items before store security stopped her. The security officers called the police and then took Gassaway to the back of the store. There, she pulled a handgun from her purse and shot three security guards before police burst in and killed her.

During an argument with his estranged wife on July 31, 2001, John VanGraafeiland threatened to go to Wal-Mart, buy bullets and kill himself. Police contacted the two local Wal-Mart's in Wilmington, North Carolina, warning them not to sell bullets to the man, but no one told the clerk selling the ammunition. After purchasing the bullets, VanGraafeiland went to his car and killed himself. Wal-Mart eventually settled a lawsuit brought by his family, paying them $130,000 for their negligence.

Each bullet Wal-Mart sells could kill a human being, and far too often, they actually do. This is blood on Wal-Mart's hands. Wal-Mart refuses to sell certain books, films, and music that the corporate honchos deem offensive. Many albums have to be censored just to make it on Wal-Mart's shelves. The company actively seeks to protect us from unwholesome messages that could corrupt our minds and our society, yet they sell ammunition that can and does kill people.

Whether it is murdered Professor John Locke or suicidal John VanGraafeiland, none of these people should have died and Wal-Mart should have played no role in their deaths. The same for Tyrone Montgomery and Gayle Isleib of Manchester, Connecticut. They worked together at a Wal-Mart. Then, one night, Montgomery shot and killed Isleib in her driveway and then killed himself. Or Jose Martinez who shot and killed Steven Dale Jenkins after a dispute at a restaurant in Ventura, California. How many more Wal-Mart bullets have to show up at crime scenes, how many more families have to mourn before Wal-Mart decides that saving our lives is more important than any amount of money, and more important than protecting us from the offensive lyrics of today's popular music.

Sometimes, the lyrics aren't even offensive. On her second album, Sheryl Crow wrote a song about the true case of two children in Florida who bought bullets at a Wal-Mart in 1992 and then killed a man. Wal-Mart refused to sell the album, and Crow was locked out of the world's largest retail store.

According to Wal-Mart, Sam Walton built the company on three basic beliefs: Respect for the Individual; Service to Our Customers; and Strive for Excellence. The selling of handgun ammunition that is repeatedly used in murders and suicides violates all three beliefs. In the words of Wal-Mart: "We're nothing without our customers." That's one more reason why they shouldn't want to see their customers dead.

Right now, sign the "Wal-Mart Is Nothing Without Its Customers" Petition. Bullets have no place at the world's largest corporation. We call on Wal-Mart to immediately stop the sale of handgun ammunition. Until Wal-Mart does this, we pledge to never again shop at Wal-Mart. Too many people have already died. Wal-Mart must remove this merchandise before anyone else is added to the list.

 


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