WASHINGTON - Wal-Mart's envoy to the White House's gun violence task force will meet with Attorney General Eric Holder, not the group's leader Vice President Joe Biden, an administration official said Thursday.
Biden is scheduled to meet with gun owners and gun rights groups Thursday, including the National Rifle Association. Later in the day he'll sit down with representatives of the entertainment and video game industries.
The NRA is sending James J. Baker, the head of its federal relations office, to meet with the vice president and other administration officials who comprise the panel, which is charged with developing proposals to stem gun violence. Those measures will be presented the President Barack Obama upon the conclusion of the meetings.
Baker served as the NRA's chief lobbyist in the 1990s, when Biden was serving as a senator from Delaware.
After initially declining an invitation to attend at meeting with the gun panel, Wal-Mart announced Wednesday that it would participate in a meeting with the group, which was assembled after the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Neither party has addressed why the retailer is now scheduled to meet with Holder as opposed to Biden, who has been at the center of the administration's evalutation process over guns.
The nation's largest retailer, whose representatives had spoken with the vice president's staff earlier this week on the issue, originally said that executives couldn't attend Biden's meeting Thursday because they were obligated to be at monthly sales meetings at its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.
The decision was widely scrutinized, with many questioning how Wal-Mart could be a part of the discussion without listening to what other parties were saying at the White House.
In response to the criticism, Wal-Mart said it would attend.
"We underestimated the expectation to attend the meeting on Thursday in person, so we are sending an appropriate representative to participate," said Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar.
Tovar said that Wal-Mart has been "very purposeful" about striking the right balance between serving hunters and sportsman and ensuring that it sells firearms responsibly. He also said the retailer is committed to staying engaged in the discussion about the right path forward with lawmakers.
Wal-Mart sells guns in roughly 1,800 of its 4,000 stores, according to Tovar. It sells semiautomatic assault rifles, like the ones used in Sandy Hook, in about 1,200 stores across the country.
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