- Walmart plans to discontinue sales of ammunition for handguns and military-style rifles, CEO Doug McMillon announced Tuesday. The retailer also plans to discontinue handgun sales in Alaska, thus completing its exit from the weapons.
- McMillon said in a blog post that the company expects these decisions to reduce its market share of ammunition, from 20% to somewhere between 6% to 9%. At the same time, the company plans to sharpen its firearms and accessories offering on hunters and outdoor enthusiasts.
- The retailer’s chief also asked customers not to openly carry firearms in open-carry states, unless they are law enforcement officers. Supermarket giant Kroger, using similar language to Walmart, also this week said it is “respectfully asking” customers not openly carry firearms in states where it is allowed, according to a statement emailed to Retail Dive.
In announcing the new policies, McMillon couched them in the harrowing recent history of violence and fear in its own stores and the country at large.
“A month ago, in El Paso, Texas, a gunman with an assault-style rifle launched a hate-filled attack in our store, shooting 48 people resulting in the loss of 22 innocent lives,” wrote McMillon, who noted he was a gun owner. He also cited associates who were killed in a Mississippi store as well mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, which came shortly after the El Paso shooting, and recent shootings in Texas.
“We’ve also been listening to a lot of people inside and outside our company as we think about the role we can play in helping to make the country safer,” McMillon added. “It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable.” To that end, he encouraged political leaders to strengthen background checks, remove weapons from people deemed dangerous and debate the reauthorization of the Assault Weapons ban.
Along with the shootings, Walmart also had to manage multiple incidents of armed customers sowing panic and anxiety in stores. In some cases, Walmart has had to evacuate its stores, McMillon noted before requesting customers not openly carry guns even in states where they are permitted to do so.
Walmart over the years has already made changes to its firearms policies. It has previously decided to stop sales on handguns and military rifles, raised the minimum purchase age to 21 and tightened its background checks beyond federal requirements.
Walmart is not alone in reevaluating its firearms policies as news of mass shootings have become an alarmingly regular feature of American life. Dick’s has removed semi-automatic rifles from its stores. This year, it pulled all guns and ammo from 125 stores, and is reportedly mulling a complete exit from firearms. Kroger’s Fred Meyer exited firearms and ammunition completely last year.
The political tensions around guns make any policy on the issue fraught. Walmart has already taken heat from the National Rifle Association for its new policies. The pro-gun lobbying group described Walmart as succumbing to “anti-gun elites.” The company’s own employees were among those calling on Walmart to change its policies in response to gun deaths in its own stores.