Will Walmart’s customers accept its rejection of the firearms ‘status quo’?
In a letter to associates, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon recalled the recent tragedies at the chain’s stores in El Paso, TX and Southaven, MS in which 24 people lost their lives and 26 others were injured in acts of gun violence. He also announced steps the chain is taking to address the situation and help “make the country safer” after concluding “that the status quo is unacceptable.”
Mr. McMillon announced Walmart will, as a precaution, discontinue sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition, once the company has fulfilled its current obligations with suppliers. He acknowledged that while this ammunition is used in legal hunting activities, it can also be used in large capacity clips on military-style weapons. The decision, he said, will affect Walmart’s business as the chain expects to go from its current 20 percent market share of ammunition to as low as six percent.
“We know these decisions will inconvenience some of our customers, and we hope they will understand. As a company, we experienced two horrific events in one week, and we will never be the same,” wrote Mr. McMillon. “Our remaining assortment will be even more focused on the needs of hunting and sport shooting enthusiasts. It will include long barrel deer rifles and shotguns, much of the ammunition they require, as well as hunting and sporting accessories and apparel.”
Walmart’s CEO also expressed concern about store safety as it relates to firearms with reference to individuals who try to make a statement about their Second Amendment rights be walking into the chain’s stores heavily armed in so-called open carry states.
These incidents have caused stress for the retailer’s customers and associates, with some resulting in calls to law enforcement. As a result, Mr. McMillon said, Walmart is “respectfully requesting that customers no longer openly carry firearms” into its stores and Sam’s Club locations unless they are “authorized law enforcement officers.” Customers with concealed carry permits will still be allowed to bring firearms into the retailer’s stores. The company plans to post signage at its entrances to educate shoppers on the new policy.
This is not the first time that Walmart has taken steps as a company to address gun violence in the U.S. In the past, the chain discontinued the sale of military-style rifles and handguns in its stores. The chain announced that it would no longer sell handguns in Alaska, the only state where it continued to carry those products.
Walmart previously raised the age to purchase firearms and ammunition in its stores from 18 to 21. It also only allows trained associates to sell firearms in its stores and requires customers to receive a “green light” from federal authorities on a background check to purchase the products. Federal law only requires the absence of a “red light” to legally permit a sale.
As it grew to become the largest retailer in the U.S., Walmart was often associated with the sale of firearms, ammunition and hunting gear. Its founder Sam Walton was known as an avid hunter and Mr. McMillon is also a gun owner. It is through this lens that Walmart’s CEO has called on political leaders to work together to come up with “common sense” responses on background checks and red flag laws to decrease the growing number of mass shootings taking place in America.
Walmart is not alone in taking steps to address gun safety in the U.S. Dick’s Sporting Goods made the decision to end the sale of military-style rifles in all it stores last year after a shooter murdered 17 students and teachers in a high school in Parkland, FL. The chain, which also raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21, has been conducting pilots to determine whether it should end sales of firearms completely.
Yesterday, Kroger announced that it is also asking customers to refrain from openly carrying firearms in its stores.
- McMillon to Associates: Our Next Steps in Response to the Tragedies in El Paso and Southaven – Walmart
- Kroger joins Walmart in asking shoppers not to openly carry guns in stores – CNBC
- Dick’s responds to Parkland teens – won’t sell AR-15s anymore – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think retailers such as Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods and others are compelled to take steps to mitigate gun violence because of the failure of political leaders to do so? Will Walmart be penalized or rewarded by customers for the steps it is taking?