Walmart says it will discontinue the sale of handgun ammunition and also publicly requests that customers refrain from openly carrying firearms in stores even where state laws allow it.
The announcement comes just days after a shooting spree claimed seven lives in Odessa, Texas and follows two other back-to-back shootings last month, one of them at a Walmart store.
The Bentonville, Arkansas-based discounter said Tuesday it will stop selling short-barrel and handgun ammunition, including .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber used in military-style weapons, after it runs out of its current inventory. It will also discontinue handgun sales in Alaska, marking its complete exit from handguns and allowing 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 that will be circulated to employees Tuesday afternoon.
Walmart is further requesting that customers refrain from openly carrying firearms at its stores unless they are law enforcement officers. Last month, a shooter entered a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas and killed 22 people using an AK-style firearm that Walmart already bans the sale of. 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 percent to a range of about 6 percent to 9 percent, according to Tuesday’s memo. About half of its more than 4,000 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.
Easy Access and Red Flags
Gyl Switzer, the executive director of Texas Gun Sense, told NTD News that the supermarket’s decision is a step toward gun safety.
“The problem we have in Texas is easy access to firearms,” said Switzer. “Walmart is ubiquitous across Texas, across the country, so it should have a significant impact on gun safety.”
McMillon also said he would encourage Congress and the White House to consider what he called “common sense measures,” such as stronger background checks and removing weapons from those determined to pose an imminent risk, otherwise known as “red flag” laws or extreme risk protection orders.
Texas Gun Sense is supportive of red flag laws. Switzer explained that the organization is not against firearms; it support responsible gun ownership.
Some are concerned, however, that red flag laws may infringe on the rights of Americans.
Shortly after the shooting in El Paso, Professor of Political Sciences Nicholas Giordano from Suffolk County Community College told The Epoch Times that the problem is determining what a “red flag” is.
“It’s easy to say red flag laws make sense if the person’s on the computer and social media and typing, ‘I’m going to kill a lot of people,’” said Giordano. “Well, then it’s pretty clear-cut. But what happens when you try to interpret what someone’s saying?
“Now it becomes a little bit more difficult—it becomes more complex.”
In some cases the firearm can be seized before a final ruling is made by the court. Under New York’s red flag law, a “temporary extreme risk order” may be issued to seize the respondent’s weapons immediately, pending his or her court hearing. Switzer, on the other hand, said red flag laws are multifaceted and require the accusation to be made under oath: points she believes should relieve concerns about extreme risk protection orders.
In the aftermath of the El Paso shooting, Walmart ordered workers to remove video game signs and displays that depict violence from stores nationwide.
By Annie D’Innocenzio. NTD reporter Miguel Moreno contributed to this article.