On Thursday, Walmart confirmed through a spokesperson that they had removed guns and ammunition from the sales floors of its U.S. stores. The announcement was made ahead of Tuesday’s Presidential election, and in preparation for potential civil unrest, rioting, and looting.
“We have seen some isolated civil unrest, and as we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers,” a Walmart spokesperson said in emails to all news outlets who inquired on the topic. “These items do remain available for purchase by customers.”
The retailer fears that their stores could be broken into, and firearms and ammunition stolen. In June, Walmart removed firearms and ammunition from their stores after several stores were broken into as peaceful protests over George Floyd’s killing turned violent.
Walmart sells guns and ammunition in roughly half of their 4,700 U.S. stores. They have been scaling back their offerings for years.
CBS News reported that Walmart stopped selling ammunition that can be used in semi-automatic rifles and handguns after a 2019 shooting at one of its stores in El Paso, Texas, killed 22 people. The company stopped selling assault-style weapons in 2015 and raised the minimum age to buy firearms and ammunition from 18 to 21 in 2018. It stopped selling handguns everywhere but in Alaska in 1993, and ended its sales of rifles like the AR-15 in 2015.
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon has resisted pressure to take Walmart out of the gun business altogether, saying last year that its remaining assortment of firearms will focus on hunting and sport shooting. He has previously requested that customers in open-carry states not openly carry their firearms into Walmarts, where the practice has led to stores being evacuated in the past.
“These incidents are concerning and we would like to avoid them, so we are respectfully requesting that customers no longer openly carry firearms into our stores or Sam’s Clubs in states where ‘open carry’ is permitted – unless they are authorized law enforcement officers,” McMillon said in a September 2019 news release.
The CEO, who has described himself as a gun owner, previously called on U.S. lawmakers and the White House to consider an assault weapons ban. “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,” McMillon said. “The status quo is unacceptable.”
McMillon’s policies and personal views have received backlash from Second Amendment groups, including the NRA, who in 2019 tweeted, “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.”
Walmart’s removal of firearms and ammunition from their sales floors comes in a year of increased firearm sales across the country. An estimated 5 million Americans bought their first firearm this year.