“The Status Quo Is Unacceptable”: Walmart and the Debate on Gun Control

by: Andrew Hoffman

Publication Date: July 6, 2020
Length: 40 pages
Product ID#: 8-768-562

Core Disciplines: Ethics, Leadership/Organizational Behavior, Social Impact, Strategy & Management

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Teaching Note

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This case focuses on the rising trend of CEO activism, especially as it relates to business extending its impact on democracy. The case centers on the contentious political issues of gun violence, gun rights, and gun control. Students will follow the protagonist and develop strategies to support Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, who took a stance on gun control by reducing gun and ammunition sales after a mass shooting in 2019 at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. Building on CEO activism, the case also focuses on further steps that corporations can take to influence public policy.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Identify ways that large companies can act unilaterally to take a stand on divisive political issues.
  • Weigh the nuances of corporations taking unilateral action in the political space as opposed to building coalitions with other companies or working with the government to bring about change.
  • Evaluate the business (profit) and moral sides of Walmart’s decision to stop selling all handguns and handgun ammunition and ask customers to avoid “open carry” in all stores.
  • Determine viable courses of action that a corporation can take in the political sphere to bring about change.
  • Analyze the validity of a corporation taking political stances and learn various criteria for what level of involvement a corporation should have for issues that affect it directly or indirectly.