Wal­mart to stop sales of hand­gun ammo

Shop­pers also urged not to openly carry firearms at its stores

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Anne D’In­no­cen­zio

NEW YORK — Wal­mart says it will dis­con­tinue the sale of hand­gun and short-bar­rel ri­fle am­mu­ni­tion and also pub­licly re­quest that cus­tomers re­frain from openly car­ry­ing firearms in stores even where state laws al­low it.

The an­nounce­ment comes just days af­ter a mass shoot­ing killed 7 peo­ple in Odessa, Texas, and fol­lows two other back-to-back shoot­ings last month, one of them at a Wal­mart store.

The Ben­tonville, Arkansas­based dis­counter said Tues­day that it will stop hand­gun am­mu­ni­tion as well as short-bar­rel ri­fle am­mu­ni­tion, such as the .223 cal­iber and 5.56 mm cal­iber used in mil­i­tary style weapons, af­ter it runs out of its cur­rent in­ven­tory.

It will also dis­con­tinue hand­gun sales in Alaska.

Wal­mart stopped sell­ing hand­guns in the mid-1990s, with the ex­cep­tion of Alaska. The lat­est move marks its com­plete exit from that business and al­lows it to fo­cus on hunt­ing ri­fles and re­lated am­mu­ni­tion only.

“We have a long her­itage as a com­pany of serv­ing re­spon­si­ble hunters and sports­men and women, and we’re go­ing to con­tinue do­ing so,” ac­cord­ing to a memo by Wal­mart’s CEO Doug McMil­lon to be cir­cu­lated to em­ploy­ees Tues­day.

The re­tailer is fur­ther re­quest­ing that cus­tomers re­frain from openly car­ry­ing firearms at its Wal­mart and Sam’s Club stores un­less they are law en­force­ment of­fi­cers. How­ever, it said that it won’t be chang­ing its pol­icy for cus­tomers who have permits for con­cealed carry. Wal­mart says it will be adding sig­nage in stores to in­form cus­tomers of those changes.

Last month, a gun­man en­tered a Wal­mart store in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 peo­ple with an AK-style firearm that Wal­mart al­ready bans the sale of and mark­ing the dead­li­est shoot­ing in the com­pany’s his­tory. Texas be­came an open carry state in 2016, al­low­ing peo­ple to openly carry firearms in pub­lic.

Wal­mart’s moves will re­duce its mar­ket share of am­mu­ni­tion from around 20% to a range of about 6% to 9%, ac­cord­ing to Tues­day’s memo. About half of its more than 4,750 U.S. stores sell firearms.

The na­tion’s largest re­tailer has been fac­ing in­creas­ing pres­sure to change its gun poli­cies by gun con­trol ac­tivists, em­ploy­ees and politi­cians af­ter the El Paso shoot­ing and a sec­ond un­re­lated shoot­ing in Day­ton, Ohio. that killed nine peo­ple. A few days be­fore that, two Wal­mart work­ers were killed by an­other worker at a store in Southaven, Mis­sis­sippi.

In the af­ter­math of the El Paso shoot­ing, Wal­mart or­dered work­ers to re­move video game signs and dis­plays that de­pict vi­o­lence from stores na­tion­wide. But that fell well short of de­mands for the re­tailer to stop sell­ing firearms en­tirely. Crit­ics have also wanted Wal­mart to stop sup­port­ing politi­cians backed by the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion.

At least one gun con­trol ac­tivist group ap­plauded Wal­mart’s moves.

“Wal­mart de­serves enor­mous credit for join­ing the strong and grow­ing ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans who know that we have too many guns in our coun­try and they are too easy to get,” said Igor Vol­sky, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor and Founder of Guns Down Amer­ica in a state­ment. “That work doesn’t end with Wal­mart’s de­ci­sion today. As Congress comes back to con­sider gun vi­o­lence, Wal­mart should make it clear that it stands with Amer­i­cans who are de­mand­ing real change.”

The re­tailer has long found it­self in an awk­ward spot with cus­tomers and gun en­thu­si­asts. Many of its stores are in ru­ral ar­eas where hunters de­pend on Wal­mart to get their equip­ment. Wal­mart is try­ing to embrace its hunt­ing her­itage while being a more re­spon­si­ble re­tailer.

In 2015, Wal­mart stopped sell­ing semi-au­to­matic weapons like the AR-15 style ri­fle, the type used in the Day­ton shoot­ing. The re­tailer also doesn’t sell large-ca­pac­ity mag­a­zines, hand­guns (ex­cept in Alaska) or bump stocks, nor the AK-style firearm that was used by the El Paso shooter.

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