Walmart Stores Inc., one of the nation's largest gun sellers, will join talks at the White House on Thursday about gun control and safety after all.
Vice President Joe Biden is conducting a series of gatherings this week aimed at building a consensus around proposals to curb gun violence following the deadly shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school last month.
The vice president met Wednesday with victims groups and gun-safety organizations. On Thursday, he will meet with the National Rifle Association and other gun-owner groups and stakeholders. Meetings with representatives from the video-game and entertainment industries are also planned.
Walmart said it previously had not planned to attend the meeting because of its senior leaders' schedule and had spoken in advance with the Vice President's office to share its perspective.
"We underestimated the expectation to attend the meeting on Thursday in person, so we are sending an appropriate representative to participate," company spokesman David Tovar said in a statement Wednesday. "We take this issue very seriously and are committed staying engaged in this discussion as the administration and Congress work toward a consensus on the right path forward."
The world's largest retailer said it has had ongoing conversations with the Obama administration, Congress, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office, sportsmen groups, suppliers and others. The company said it has tried to strike the right balance between serving hunters and sportsmen and ensuring that it sells firearms responsibly.
President Barack Obama wants Biden to report back to him with policy proposals by the end of the month. Obama has vowed to move swiftly on the recommendations, and a proposed package is expected to include both legislative proposals and executive action.
Biden on Wednesday vowed urgent action against gun violence in America, pledging steps by the administration that he said could "take thousands of people out of harm's way" and improve the safety of millions more.
But a day ahead of the meeting with the NRA, which has sunk past gun control efforts and is opposing any new ones, Biden signaled that the administration is mindful of political realities that could imperil sweeping gun control legislation, and is willing to settle for something less. He said the administration is considering its own executive action as well as measures by Congress, but he didn't offer specifics.
"I want to make it clear that we are not going to get caught up in the notion that unless we can do everything, we're going to do nothing," Biden told an array of gun control advocates, crime victims and others at the White House. "It's critically important we act."