KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT / AP) - The National Rifle Association fired back at Walmart in a Facebook post on the decision to stop selling some ammunition and open carry in stores.
Walmart says it will stop selling handgun and short-barrel rifle ammunition while requesting that customers not openly carry firearms in its stores, even where state laws allow it.
The Bentonville, Arkansas-based discounter said Tuesday it will stop selling handgun ammunition as well as short-barrel rifle ammunition, such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber used in military-style weapons, after it runs out of its current inventory.
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 signs in stores to inform customers of those changes.
The NRA Institute for Legislative Action said in a Facebook post "The strongest defense of freedom has always been our free-market economy. 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."
Last month, a gunman entered a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 people. The gunman used an AK-style rifle — one that Walmart already bans the sale of — in the deadliest shooting in the company's history. Texas became an open carry state in 2016, allowing people to openly carry firearms in public.
The NRA also said in the social media post "The truth is Walmart’s actions today will not make us any safer. Rather than place the blame on the criminal, Walmart has chosen to victimize law-abiding Americans. Our leaders must be willing to approach the problems of crime, violence and mental health with sincerity and honesty."
"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."— NRA (@NRA) September 3, 2019
Read @NRA's statement on Walmart's decision here: pic.twitter.com/bmwAS9o0KP
Walmart's moves will reduce its market share of ammunition from around 20% to a range of about 6% to 9%, according to Tuesday's memo. About half of its more than 4,750 U.S. stores sell firearms or around 2% of all U.S. firearms. Most firearms sales are done through thousands of unaffiliated gun shops or gun shows, not big retail chains.
Other companies have responded to public pressure to restrict gun sales. Dick's Sporting Goods announced in March it would stop selling firearms and ammunition at 125 of its 700-plus locations. Kroger's said last year that it would stop selling firearms and ammunition at its Fred Meyer stores in the Pacific Northwest. Kroger joined Walmart Tuesday in asking customers not to openly carry their guns when they visit its stores.
The National Rifle Association posted a tweet attacking Walmart's announcement."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.
The nation's largest retailer has been facing increasing pressure to change its gun policies by gun control activists, employees and politicians after the El Paso shooting and a second unrelated shooting in Dayton, Ohio, that killed nine people. A few days before that, two Walmart workers were killed by another worker at a store in Southaven, Mississippi.
In the aftermath of the El Paso shooting, Walmart took an initial step of ordering workers in stores nationwide to remove video game signs and displays that depict violence. But 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.
We’ve been working to understand the many important issues arising from the horrific events in El Paso and Southaven, as well as those raised in the national discussion around gun violence. Today, we’re sharing some next steps: https://t.co/chWzGf6Amv pic.twitter.com/Ye3xjjRdrh— Walmart Inc. (@WalmartInc) September 3, 2019
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.
Walmart and Kroger join a string of other retailers and restaurants including Starbucks, Target and Wendy's in asking customers not to openly carry their guns when they visit their premises. But they are 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 said it sent letters Tuesday to the White House and the congressional leadership that call for action on these "common sense" measures.
Kroger said late Tuesday that it's joining those encouraging elected leaders to pass laws that will strengthen background checks and remove weapons from those who have been found to pose a risk for violence.
During 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.