Walmart to stop sales of handgun ammo
Shoppers also urged not to openly carry firearms at its stores
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.