Walmart has announced changes to its gun policy in response to recent mass shootings at its stores over the summer.
In a memo sent to employees on Tuesday, CEO Doug McMillon wrote that the retail giant is discontinuing the sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition, including .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber, which can be used in large-capacity clips on military-style weapons. Additionally, it will halt the sales of handgun ammunition, as well as handgun sales in Alaska, marking a “complete exit” from its handgun business.
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“We’ve also been listening to a lot of people inside and outside our company as we think about the role we can play in helping to make the country safer,” McMillon wrote. “It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable.”
Last month, 22 people were gunned down at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. The incident came just a few days after another shooting at one of its Mississippi locations, where a suspended employee fatally shot two co-workers. (Hours after the El Paso massacre, firearms-related deaths were reported in Dayton, Ohio, and another shooting took place this past weekend in the Texas cities of Midland and Odessa.)
Following a visit to El Paso three days after the incident, McMillion said that the company would be “thoughtful and deliberate” in its response to gun violence across the country. In a plea to government officials, he shared that he would be sending letters to the White House and Congress, calling for action on common-sense gun laws.
“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. “As we’ve seen before, these horrific events occur and then the spotlight fades. We should not allow that to happen. Congress and the administration should act.”
Walmart’s remaining assortment of firearms will center around hunting and sport shooting, such as long-barrel deer rifles and shotguns, as well as hunting and sporting accessories and apparel. The move, McMillon added, would effectively reduce Walmart’s market share of ammunition from around 20% to a range of roughly 6% to 9%.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer also requested that customers no longer openly carry firearms into Walmart and Sam’s Clubs stores — even where open carry is permitted. (No change in policy has been made on concealed carry by customers with permits.)
“We believe the opportunity for someone to misinterpret a situation, even in open-carry states, could lead to tragic results,” McMillon wrote. “We hope that everyone will understand the circumstances that led to this new policy and will respect the concerns of their fellow shoppers and our associates.”
Walmart had been widely considered as one of the biggest sellers of guns in the United States, and firearms are said to represent a significant portion of its business. After last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the company raised the minimum age to 21 from 18 to purchase guns in its stores, and removed products that bore a resemblance to assault-style rifles. Its policy is already considerably stricter than current federal laws, requiring customers to pass a background check before being issued a firearm.
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