Editorials

Congress couldn’t do it. These are the real defenders of California’s gun control values

California has long had some of the toughest gun laws in the country and, in Sen. Dianne Feinstein, one of the country’s toughest advocates for gun control. But if the past few years have proven anything, it’s that enacting federal legislation to prevent the next mass shooting is, at best, a long shot.

Oh, sure, there’s always hope: In response to last month’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, President Donald Trump has said he’s open to a Feinstein bill that would raise the minimum age to buy assault rifles and high capacity magazines to 21. On Wednesday, he also reiterated his support for banning bump stocks and beefing up background checks.

But Trump talked a good game on immigration reform, too, and we see where that got us. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress appear to be stalling, shamelessly loyal as ever to the blood money of the National Rifle Association.

Thank goodness then for the companies coming down on the side of California values. If corporations are people, as former presidential candidate Mitt Romney once said, then they may not be the people Republicans thought they were.

In the vacuum of leadership left by Congress, corporate America has done what Washington would do if it had a moral compass. United Airlines, MetLife, major car rental companies and others have severed ties with the NRA.

More significantly, Kroger followed the lead of Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods on Thursday, announcing it would no longer sell guns to anyone younger than 21. “Recent events demonstrate the need for additional action on the part of responsible gun retailers,” a spokeswoman for the Ohio-based Kroger chain explained.

Here in California, where gun control has seemed a lonely cause, and where the Legislature is considering its own measure – Senate Bill 1100 by Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge – to increase the minimum age for buying guns, this feels like progress. And to an extent, it is.

Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods are two of the nation’s largest sellers of firearms. That means, without Congress even lifting a finger, they’ve effectively just stopped millions of young men and women from getting their hands on military-style assault rifles and handguns.

No civilian needs a weapon of war, let alone a teenaged civilian. But the truth is, these corporate announcements are also pragmatic because they’re about profits. The writing is on the wall.

Judging from the youth-driven explosion of anger and grief after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., the nation’s obsession with guns has a shelf life. The NRA’s constituency is going gray, unlike the #NeverAgain gun control movement led by social-media-savvy teenagers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Even the gun lobby knows it’s in trouble.

At the annual Conservative Political Action Committee convention last week, NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch observed at the end of a long, fear-mongering speech that “politics is downstream from culture. It’s going to happen in culture first before it happens in politics.”

The youngest Americans of the #NeverAgain movement, who grew up with active shooter drills and the constant threat of mass shootings, are changing the culture. They’re pushing not just for a more reasonable age limit for gun purchases, but for an all-out, California-style ban on assault rifles. And their demands are gaining traction.

The Walmarts and Krogers of the world know that young people are their next generation of customers. They also know there is no public relations upside for selling an AR-15 to the next school shooter.

Unlike politicians, markets don’t lie.

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