WASHINGTON — Walmart announced Tuesday that it would gradually scale back its sales of guns and ammunition. The move comes after the massive retailer faced pressure from gun-control groups to take action on gun and ammo sales after the August 3 El Paso mass shooting at one of its stores.
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the company would stop selling handguns in Alaska and phase out the sale of ammo for assault-style weapons and handguns across its 4,700 stores. McMillon also said the retailer would ask customers not to carry their weapons inside Walmart stores in open-carry states. “It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable,” McMillon wrote in a memo to employees.
Walmart announced in 2015 that it would stop selling AR-15-style rifles and this year said it would not sell firearms to anyone under the age of 21. What’s more, Walmart’s latest move will not dramatically affect the gun industry: The retailer says its gun sales account for only 2 percent of the market. But before the decision, Walmart said its sales of ammunition comprised more than 20 percent of overall ammo sales. The retailer expects that market share to drop to between 6 and 9 percent.
In other words, these are modest changes from a dollars-and-cents perspective but a sizable one from a public-relations standpoint.
Major gun-control activists hailed Walmart’s announcement. “Walmart’s action is another sign that the private sector has had enough with America’s gun violence crisis,” former congresswoman Gabby Giffords said in a statement. “Addressing a problem this big requires leaders from across American society to be part of the solution. Walmart’s announcement should be applauded by all Americans, and I’m hopeful it will inspire elected leaders to follow in their footsteps.” The March for Our Lives called it “a HUGE step in the right direction” and thanked the retailer for its “courage.”
This is a HUGE step in the right direction! Walmart has been one of America’s largest seller of guns and ammunition. They are doing their part. @senatemajldr you’re up.
— March For Our Lives (@AMarch4OurLives) September 3, 2019
On Tuesday’s call, Walmart CEO McMillon urged members of Congress to pass new background check legislation — a move briefly considered and then ruled by President Trump — and to toughen mental-health laws as it relates to gun purchases. “We encourage our nation’s leaders to move forward and strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger,” he said. “Congress and the administration should act. Given our decades of experience selling firearms, we are also offering to serve as a resource in the national debate on responsible gun sales.”
This story has been corrected to reflect Walmart’s past announcements scaling back its firearms sales.