Walmart: Second Amendment and First Amendment Related

Are the Second Amendment and First Amendment related? Attacking private ownership of firearms seems to require censorship.

couple pose with gun

Since Walmart is a private company, not a civil government, it can’t be accused of directly violating either the First or Second Amendments. If a store doesn’t want people with guns to enter the property, then they have a right to make that demand, for example.

But when a business allows customers to think they have the freedom to contract with them to publish an image or message and then the business suddenly reveals exceptions, this can verge on truly wrong censorship. If there are odd prohibitions on the part of the store, they should inform their customers.

Also, even though Walmart is not the civil government, the fact that one of its agents (misrepresenting the company, we are told) took a stand against the Second Amendment by using censorship gives us some idea of what life would be like under gun prohibition.  We have already seen Hillary Clinton make a statement in which assaulting the Second Amendment requires compromising the First. We have seen a museum censor exhibits for the sake of state laws that violate the Second Amendment. So what reports happened at Walmart isn’t that surprising:

Stephanie Wehner knew exactly what she wanted to do with an engagement photo she took with her fiancé holding his beloved 12-gauge Ruger Red Label shotgun.

“It depicts our love for each other, and I wanted to be able to display those at the reception,” Wehner said.

With her wedding to Mitch Strobl scheduled for this weekend, she had to just tie up some loose ends — like ordering photo printouts online at Walmart.

Wehner submitted 13 photos with varying poses, lighting, and background.

“She came with the idea to take a creative picture where we include something that is important to us,” Strobl said.

One of the 13 photographs submitted included Mitch’s shotgun. He said it was the first gun that he had purchased himself, calling it his “go-to” gun for outdoor sport.

When Wehner — an employee at WFAA-TV owned by Gannett, the parent company of USA TODAY — arrived at the local Walmart store to pick up the prints, she was told the photo with the firearm would not be released.

“She was very nice, but very matter-of-fact, like she was not going to budge or give me my photo,” Wehner said.

She even recieved a slip from the clerk that read: “MINUS ONE 5 X 7. NO WEAPONS.”

The clerk at the Walmart told Wehner it was the store’s “policy.” Wehner was told she can’t print pictures of guns.

But it’s the explanation that caught the couple off-guard. Wehner said the clerk told her the photo couldn’t be released because the weapon would promote a “gang culture.”

So even though this customer thought she was purchasing a promised service, suddenly she finds out that one is missing. Again, this is not censorship, if a store really wants to practice discrimination I’m not going to claim that violates anyone’s rights. But they should make their rules known as soon as possible, not surprise a customer who was counting on them to deliver a service with no expectation that they would refuse.

Walmart came out with a claim that the employee was “misinformed.” I can’t imagine how that happened, but that is their claim.

Wehner and Strobl see this more as an attack on their First Amendment right to express themselves through photography.

Again, that is a mistake. Walmart can’t violate the First or Second Amendments because they are not the government. But the point is still valid, as I’ve argued above. Pushing a position on guns involves pushing certain expressions and restricting others. It is true of private companies and it is true of civil governments.

Bad rules always require lying.