Walmart introduces new gun restrictions but will they help?

Walmart will also discontinue handgun sales in Alaska

Walmart introduces new gun restrictions but will they help?

Walmart has won praise from gun control advocates for its decision to discontinue sales of certain gun ammunition and request that customers no longer openly carry firearms in its stores. But whether the moves will translate into fewer guns on the street remains an open question.

The announcement Tuesday follows similar steps by other retailers responding to public pressure to restrict gun and ammunition sales. In March, Dick’s Sporting Goods said it would stop selling firearms and ammunition at 125 of its 700-plus locations. Meanwhile, Starbucks, Target, Wendy’s and most recently Kroger have also asked customers not to openly carry guns when visiting their stores.

Supporters of stricter gun laws say that as the nation’s largest retailer, Walmart will have outsized influence on the gun debate, sending a strong message to Congress as well as other corporations to also take action.

“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.”

Still, most firearms sales come from thousands of unaffiliated gun shops or gun shows, not big retail chains, so it’s not clear how much difference Walmart’s moves will make. About half of its more than 4,750 U.S. stores sell firearms, or only around 2% of all U.S. firearms.

ALSO READ: El Paso shooting victim, 25, ‘gave her life’ for son, sister says

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based discounter said Tuesday it will stop selling handgun ammunition as well as short-barrel rifle ammunition, such as the .223 calibre and 5.56 calibre used in military style weapons, after it runs out of its current inventory. That in turn will reduce Walmart’s market share of ammunition from around 20% to a range of about 6% to 9%, according to a memo by the company CEO Doug McMillon.

Walmart will also discontinue handgun sales in Alaska. Walmart stopped selling handguns in the mid-1990s in every state but Alaska. The latest move marks its complete exit from that business and allows it to focus on hunting rifles and related ammunition only.

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.

Walmart’s announcement comes just days after a mass shooting claimed seven lives in Odessa, Texas and follows two other back-to-back shootings last month, one of them at a Walmart store.

Last month, a gunman entered a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and killed 22 people with an AK-style firearm that the retailer already bans the sale of, marking the deadliest shooting in Walmart’s history. A second unrelated shooting that same day in Dayton, Ohio killed nine people . A few days before that, two Walmart workers were killed by another worker at a store in Southaven, Mississippi.

“In a complex situation lacking a simple solution, we are trying to take constructive steps to reduce the risk that events like these will happen again,” according to McMillon’s memo. “The status quo is unacceptable.”

The National Rifle Association posted a tweet attacking Walmart’s announcement Tuesday.

“It is shameful to see Walmart succumb to the pressure of the anti-gun elites. Lines at Walmart will soon be replaced by lines at other retailers who are more supportive of America’s fundamental freedoms,” it said.

Walmart took an initial step of ordering workers in stores nationwide to remove video game signs and displays that depict violence as a way to be more sensitive to customers in the aftermath of the El Paso shooting. Still, 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 NRA.

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

With its new policy on “open carry,” McMillon noted in his memo that individuals have tried to make a statement by carrying weapons into its stores just to frighten workers and customers. But there are well-intentioned customers acting lawfully who have also inadvertently caused a store to be evacuated and local law enforcement to be called to respond. Like other companies, Walmart is not enforcing an outright ban because they don’t want to put their employees in confrontational situations.

Walmart says it hopes to help other retailers by sharing its best practices in background checks. And the company, which in 2015 stopped selling assault rifles like the AR-rifles used in several mass shootings, urged more debate on the reauthorization of the assault weapons ban while also calling for the government to strengthen background checks. Walmart sent letters Tuesday to the White House and the Congressional leadership seeking action on these “common sense” measures.

Over the last 15 years, Walmart had expanded beyond its hunting and fishing roots, carrying items like assault rifles in response to increasing demand. But particularly since 2015, often coinciding with major public mass shootings, the company has made moves to curb the sale of ammunition and guns.

Walmart announced in February 2018 that it would no longer sell firearms and ammunition to people younger than 21 and also removed items resembling assault-style rifles from its website. Those moves were prompted by the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people.

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. Dick’s Sporting Good stopped selling assault-style weapons in 2018.

Anne D’Innocenzio, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Williams Lake and the Chilcotin is part of a community cluster declared by Interior Health Jan. 20, 2021. (Angie Mindus file photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
53 more COVID-19 cases linked to ‘social gatherings’ in Williams Lake: Interior Health

Cariboo Chilcotin schools have seen a surge in COVID-19 exposures

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Esk’etemc First Nation (Alkali Lake) Chief Fred Robbins takes part in Secwepemc Health Caucus’s “Raising Our Spirits” ceremony Friday, Jan. 22. (Secwepemc Health Caucus Facebook image)
Secwepemc Nation raises spirits through song

More than 150 join virtual ceremony

Carla Bullinger says that sometimes keeping our language simple is the most efficient way to communicate with one another. (Photo submitted)
REACH A READER 2021: Literacy matters now more than ever

There is no way to tell just by looking at someone whether they have literacy challenges

Angus Wellburn, 4, and his sister, Ida, 1, with their mom, Jane Wellburn, read a children’s story posted on the window of the Williams Lake Library as part of an ongoing literacy week display. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
REACH-A-READER 2021: Family literacy – stretching the moment

What does Family Literacy actually mean and why is it so important?

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Most Read