A month after 20 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Walmart branch in El Paso, Texas, Walmart announced last September that it’s going to reduce its ammunition sales. The company also pressured Congress to strengthen gun safety measures.
The largest retail company in the US said that it would cease selling of all handgun ammunition and “short-barrel rifle ammunition” after it clears out all the stocks in the inventory. Walmart (WMT) will also stop selling handguns in Alaska, the only state where it sells guns. Furthermore, the company announced its request for customers to refrain from carrying handguns into its 4,700 US stores or its Sam’s Club stores.
According to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon in a memo to employees last September, “It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable.”
However, long barrel deer rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition for these guns will still be sold at Walmart. United States’ largest retail company sells firearms in its 3,900 stores. In these stores, Walmart will also allow customers to carry guns.
According to McMillon, these actions are prompted by the mass killings in El Paso, Texas, and shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and Midland and Odessa, Texas.
On a call with reporters, Walmart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs, Dan Bartlett, said the company is attempting to find the balance between safety in stores, and customers who are “part of our customer base.”
He added, “We feel like we are striking a responsible balance between the interests of law-abiding citizens who are exercising their legal rights and the safety concerns of our associates and customers.”
For the first time, Walmart admitted that the company is behind about 2% of the market for guns today. It believes, however, Walmart is not among the top three gun sellers in the country. On the other hand, Walmart said the company owns about 20% market share of ammunition sales.
From 20%, Walmart’s sales on ammunition will go down to 6% and 9% the time it implements its changes in ammunition retail.
“We believe it will likely drift toward the lower end of that range, over time, given the combination of these changes,” McMillon said.
McMillon shared he is also a gun owner, and it was tough avoiding alienating customers.
“We will treat law-abiding customers with respect, and we will have a very non-confrontational approach,” McMillon said. “Our remaining assortment will be even more focused on the needs of hunting and sport shooting enthusiasts.”
McMillon mentioned that he would write a letter to the White House and congressional leaders to consider re-authorizing the assault weapons and further improve background checks.
“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 in an interview with CNN. “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.”
The mass shooting at a Walmart branch in El Paso was one of the worst killings in the US. According to federal investigators, they see it as an act of domestic terrorism.
At the height of the issue, Walmart faced controversies and pressure to remove firearms from their retails. The company also received criticisms regarding the pro-gun T-shirts that were being sold online. Some Democratic leaders and unions, such as The American Federation of Teachers, have called on Walmart to stop its gun sales entirely.
Selling handguns dates back to the origin of Walmart. Despite being one of the early sellers of guns, the company still changed its policies on selling guns. In 2015, Walmart ceased its sales for assault rifles and raised the purchasing age for firearms to 21.
McMillon said, “we understand that heritage, our deeply rooted place in America, and our influence as the world’s largest retailer. And we understand the responsibility that comes with it.”