The killing of 22 people at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) store last month led to new demands that the world’s largest retailer stop selling firearms at its thousands of U.S. stores. After a month of deliberation, CEO Doug McMillon announced Tuesday that the company would stop selling some kinds of ammunition and take other steps to “make the country safer.”
The memo to company employees also noted the killing of two Southaven, Mississippi, Walmart employees later on the same day (August 3) as the mass shooting in El Paso and Walmart’s previous decisions to limit sales of handguns and military-style semi-automatic rifles to persons over the age of 21, to require a “green light” response to a federal background check rather than required absence of a “red light,” to videotape points of sale for firearms, and to allow only trained staff to sell firearms.
McMillon said that once Walmart sells its existing stock of .223 caliber and 5.56 mm ammunition it will no longer sell short-barrel rifle ammo. He noted that in addition to this type of ammunition’s use in hunting rifles, it is also used in large-capacity magazines on military-style weapons. The company also will stop selling handgun ammunition once existing supplies are exhausted, and it will discontinue handgun sales in Alaska, the last state in which the company still sells the weapons.
The company’s share of U.S. ammunition sales will drop from around 20% to a range of 6% to 9% as a result of these changes McMillon said.
Walmart is also “respectfully requesting” that customers no longer carry firearms openly in Walmart or Sam’s Club stores, even in states where open-carry is legal. Of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, only six ban open carrying of a handgun (California, the District of Columbia, Florida, New York and South Carolina) and only seven ban open carrying of long guns (rifles and shotguns): California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Jersey), according to data from the Giffords Law Center.
McMillon said that Walmart is exploring ways to share its proprietary firearms sales technology platform with other retailers to assist them in selling firearms “in a responsible, compliant manner.”
The company is also urging the Trump administration and Congress “to move forward and strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger.” Calling firearms control “a complex situation lacking a simple solution,” McMillon said Walmart is “trying to take constructive steps to reduce the risk that events like [those in El Paso, Southaven, and Odessa, Texas] will happen again.
Tuesday’s announcement won’t have much impact on the sale of firearms in the United States. Walmart last month estimated that it sells about 2% of the country’s firearms.