Walmart to attend gun control meeting at White House

NEW YORK - After initially declining an invitation to attend, Walmart announced Wednesday that it will participate in a meeting with Vice President Joseph Biden's gun violence task force.

The nation's largest retailer, which had sent representatives to meet with the vice president's staff earlier this week, 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 Walmart 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 that the retailer is committed to staying engaged in the discussion about the right path forward with lawmakers.

Just days after a gunman killed 20 school children and six teachers in Newtown, Conn., President Obama tapped Biden to lead a panel that will provide recommendations to prevent another mass shooting.

A senior administration official said Tuesday that Biden would hold meetings this week with victims' advocacy groups and gun safety organizations, as well as with groups representing gun owners. The official added the vice president would meet with representatives of the entertainment and video game industries.

Both the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation will participate in the meetings, which are slated for Wednesday and Thursday.

The meetings are expected to result in recommendations to be presented to Obama to inform which proposal he will push, the official said.

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