John Ruggieri, manager of Walmart's Danbury store, carries back to his store a box given to him by protesters with more than 291,000 signatures opposing Walmart sales of assault weapons.(Photo: Gary Stoller, USA TODAY)
DANBURY, Conn. -- Gun-control advocates and mothers whose children
were shot in mass shootings delivered to the Walmart store here Tuesday a
petition with more than 291,000 signatures demanding an end to the
company's national sales of assault weapons and munitions.
Mercurio of SumOfUs.org, a corporate watchdog that organized the
demonstration, handed a box with the signatures to store manager John
Ruggieri outside the store's front doors.
The signatures were gathered by SomeOfUs.org and activist groups Change.org, MomsRising and Courage Campaign.
was accompanied by about 80 protesters who walked through the store's
spacious parking lot and met Ruggieri on a cold winter day.
included Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was wounded at a mass shooting
at Virginia Tech in 2007; Roxanna Green, whose 9-year-old daughter
Christina-Taylor was killed in a 2011 Tucson shooting spree that also
wounded then Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords; and Pam Simon, who also
was wounded in that shooting.
Ruggieri shook hands with Mercurio
and Haas and said he would pass the signatures on to his company, the
country's largest gun retailer. He said his Walmart store supports the
local community and -- unlike many Walmart stores -- doesn't sell guns.
said organizers were aware the store doesn't sell guns. He said they
chose the Danbury store for delivery of their petition because it is
"symbolic" -- the nearest Walmart store to Sandy Hook Elementary School,
where 20 children and six adults were killed Dec. 14 by gunman Adam
In the Walmart parking lot, three Sandy Hook residents, Darren Wagner
and his sons Austen, 14, and Trystan, 15, held a banner that said:
"Walmart: 291,141 Concerned Citizens Say Stop Selling Assault Weapons."
a retired deputy sheriff who is a photographer, said Walmart does
"positive things" for the community, but the company is "part of the
problem" of gun violence in America.
"Walmart is a family-friendly store, and it shouldn't be selling any firearms or munitions," Wagner said.
Aldrich, a Newtown resident who works as a prison librarian, said
Walmart should "stop selling all weapons." Aldrich said his daughter and
son graduated from Sandy Hook Elementary School.
daughter Emily survived the Virginia Tech shooting and graduated from
the university, said Walmart should not be selling "people-killer"
"We don't need military-grade people-killers on our streets," Haas said. "Those weapons were manufactured only to kill people."
Haas said "the pain from gun violence is unacceptable," and "the amount of pain I've witnessed is too much to bear."
corporate spokeswoman, Kory Lundberg, said in a written statement to
USA TODAY that Walmart "has been very purposeful about striking the
right balance between serving our customers" who are hunters and
sportsmen "and ensuring that we sell firearms in the most responsible
She said Walmart doesn't sell handguns in the continental USA and doesn't sell high-capacity magazines separately from a gun.
doesn't sell firearms online and limits sales of modern sporting rifles
"to less than one-third of our stores, primarily where there are large
concentrations of hunters and sportsmen," Lundberg said.
Walmart became a charter member of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's
coalition against illegal guns and adopted a 10-point firearms sales
code "that goes beyond what the law requires," Lundberg said. Among
other things, the code requires videotaping of all firearms
transactions, no sales without background check results, and securing
firearms behind a locking fixture and with trigger locks.
recent weeks, Walmart has discussed gun sales with the Obama
administration, Congress, Bloomberg's office and sportsmen's groups,
"We recognize there are a lot of views on this
topic and many ideas being considered," she said. "While the debate
continues, we remain committed to listening and sharing our experience
to help the administration and Congress reach consensus on the right
path forward for our country."