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Opinion: Guns and alcohol! Merry Christmas!

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Whatever your particular creed or faith, most people regard this time of year as a season of peace — a time to reflect, count blessings, maybe offer a little prayer for better days ahead. We suffer the coarseness and indignities of a saturated consumer market to enjoy the time with family and friends, and work for better days in our communities. That is why it was so appalling that a recent trip to an area Sam’s Club for supplies for a holiday party became an occasion for outrage.

Sam’s Club (a division of Walmart) often has vendors set up special displays of merchandise that might not be part of its regular lineup of products. Megawine Inc., a liquor distributor from Van Nuys, had an entire display — front and center in the Sam’s Club on El Camino, and right around the corner from the video games and children’s books — of tequila in various life-sized, gun-shaped bottles. Consumers could buy replicas of AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifles, carbines, semi-automatic handguns and pistols, all filled with tequila.

Alcohol and guns — together! How festive! Do we really need to combine two of the more obvious enablers, as criminologists call them, of violence in this country? How mind-numbingly stupid must the marketing department be to think that this would be a smart way to market tequila? Is Sam’s Club so committed to profit that they would market something so inappropriate in a store in which families and children wander around buying Christmas presents?

A recent survey of local Sam’s Clubs indicated that all five of the Sacramento area Sam’s Clubs stocked this line of gun-shaped tequila bottles. After I filed a complaint through the Sam’s Club website, I received a phone call from the El Camino store inquiring about the nature of my concern. When I responded that my concern was that selling products which suggest that combining automatic weapons and alcohol seemed like a terrible idea, the woman informed me (with a huff of indignation) that they had already sold over $50,000 worth of these products, so people must be fine with it. When I indicated that I was going to start a drive to stop these sales, she warned me ominously that I “would be contacted by the legal department.” Excellent! Intimidation and bad judgment all rolled into one! Maybe at Sam’s Club ethical marketing is just another sad oxymoron?

This isn’t a temperance movement, it is not a gun control campaign, and it is not (directly at least) an anti-Walmart crusade. It is a simple plea for a store that brings in thousands of families a day to think twice about how they market products. This is a small plea for common sense at a time when there is already far too much alcohol-fueled violence in our community. Do we really need to have alcohol marketed with this violent imagery? Alcohol clouds judgment and lowers inhibitions. How many thousands of people suffer from alcohol-enabled gun violence across our communities?

In 1989 Stockton suffered through the Cleveland School Massacre in which a drifter armed with a semi-automatic weapon, not unlike Megawine’s tequila bottle, fired off 100 rounds in the school’s playground. Tragically, five children were killed and 30 others, including one teacher, were wounded. Does anyone doubt that had Sam’s Club had attempted to market these products directly after that incident, everyone would have immediately understood how stupid, how misguided and how obviously wrong this would be? The real question is, if it was wrong then, why is it any more acceptable now?

If you would like to sign an online petition asking for the removal of these products, please click www.change.org/petitions/sams-clubwalmart-stop-selling-gun-shaped-alcohol-bottles. If you share this outrage, please forward this link to your friends and family.

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