Ten days into a campaign to get the nation's largest supermarket chain to ban the open carry of guns, Kroger is walking a tightrope.
The gun-control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is calling on shoppers to boycott the Cincinnati-based grocery chain on weekends unless the store supports their position of asking shoppers not to openly carry firearms.
"Moms need to shop for groceries, but we don't have to shop at stores that put our families in harm's way," said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action.
So far, Krogers is staking out the middle ground.
"Our long-standing policy on this issue is to follow state and local laws and to ask customers to be respectful of others while shopping," Kroger said in a statement. "We know that our customers are passionate on both sides of this issue, and we trust them to be responsible in our stores."
In addition to the boycott, the Moms have an online "Groceries, not guns" petition to encourage emails to Kroger CEOs.
These campaigns targetting retail stores have been a response to the effectiveness of the National Rifle Association in preventing further government regulations on firearms. And are part of a larger ongoing battle between advocates of Second Amendment rights and those seeking greater gun controls to combat violence.
"The [anti-gun violence] petitions have come in response to demonstrations by so-called open-carry groups where members bring loaded assault-style firearms into stores. Those tactics have sparked a rare public backlash against public gun carry and introspection among gun owners in a country where states recently have, on the whole, pushed laws strengthening gun and self-defense rights.
To be sure, gun rights groups point out that some recent corporate policy changes are meaningless since they don’t actually ban guns, but simply request nicely that customers don’t bring them. But after the pressure on corporations like Starbucks and now Target to change their policy on guns, it’s clear that what Moms Demand Action calls its “common-sense” approach on the Second Amendment is winning converts, and at least shifting the weight slightly on the long-running tug of war between pro-gun lobbyists like the National Rifle Association and gun control and antiviolence organizations.
Last fall, Starbucks issued this statement: "We are respectfully requesting that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas – even in states where 'open carry' is permitted – unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel," Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wrote on Sept. 17. "This is a request and not an outright ban ... because we want to give responsible gun owners the chance to respect our request."
Who's likely to blink first in this Kroger vs. Moms Demand Action showdown? It all depends on the effectiveness of the Moms anti-gun boycott, according to an analyst interviewed by Cincinnati.com.
Matt McCormick, a portfolio manager with Bahl & Gaynor, said Kroger is being targeted because of its size. If a boycott materializes, the retailer ultimately will do a cost-benefit analysis on lost sales before making another move.
"It would be quite a plum if they got Kroger to ban guns," he said. "Deep down for Kroger, it's not a political decision, an ethical or moral decision, it's a business decision."
[Editor's Note: The original story didn't make clear that Moms Demand Action is only asking Kroger customers to shop elsewhere on weekends, and is not seeking a complete ban on firearms, but a policy that doesn't allow open carry of firearms in the stores.]