When Moms Demand Action announced Monday that we were launching a petition to the Kroger Family of Stores to prohibit the open carry of guns in its supermarkets in response to incidences of gun violence as well as open carry demonstrations that have brought gunmen with loaded assault weapons into stores, Kroger said they stand by their policy to allow anyone to openly carry loaded guns in its stores when state laws allow it. "We don't want to put our associates in a position of having to confront a customer who is legally carrying a gun," they said.
In so doing, they've conceded our point. If Kroger is concerned about the behavior that an unknown, armed individual would display toward its staff, Kroger should also be concerned about the behavior that individual could display toward moms and our children. In fact, if Kroger gives guests notice that open carry is prohibited at its stores, there would be no need for an employee or a mom to confront an armed individual violating the policy directly -- instead, law enforcement could handle the situation.
A uniform policy prohibiting open carry in its stores is important because with the lax gun laws in state after state, there's simply no way to know whether the people openly carrying loaded firearms in Kroger stores have had a background check or are trained in gun safety. When confronted with a semiautomatic rifle in the frozen food aisle with our children, how is any mom supposed to know if these are political activists making a statement, or if we should duck and cover?
That's why within the first 24 hours of its launch, nearly 60,000 people have signed our petition to Michael Ellis, Kroger's President and Chief Operating Officer, and Mr. W. Rodney McMullen, Kroger's Chief Executive Officer, demanding that they take immediate action to protect our children, as well as their employees, by following the lead of Target, Chipotle and Starbucks and adopting a gun sense national policy that will keep us safe in stores.
This movement of American families urging Kroger and other major corporations to get gun sense isn't about being anti-gun--it's about our concern for our children and our safety. And this concern is real.
In fact, just after we launched our petition, I got this note from a mom in Virginia:
"I went shopping last night (Sunday) at our nearby Kroger to pick up a few things. Cheerios, milk, etc., as we had been out of town for a bit.
"When I turned down the cereal aisle, there was another shopper with a handgun in his belt. I quickly steered the cart out of the aisle and went to pay. At the register, the manager happened to be walking by and I asked her if she knew that there was a shopper in the store carrying a (presumably) loaded gun. I asked if she had checked to see if this person had a permit (at the time I didn't know that open carry laws in Virginia mean you don't have to have a permit). She replied that yes she was aware and that Kroger didn't place any restrictions on this practice as it was legal in Virginia.
"At that time, I told her that I had been shopping at that Kroger for nearly 15 years, and this would be my last trip."
That Kroger's leadership is digging its heels in isn't unprecedented. Starbucks also at first said it would stick by its policy allowing open carry in its stores when moms petitioned them for a change, but when Starbucks CEOs saw "uncivil and...even threatening" political demonstrations at their stores across the country, they listened to the call of tens of thousands of moms, dads, aunts and uncles across America and they got some gun sense. So did Target, Chipotle, Sonic, Chili's Grill & Bar, Jack in the Box, Facebook and Instagram.
If Kroger doesn't know it already, they will know it very soon: We are in this for the long run, and in the long run we will win.