One month after a perpetrator targeted a Walmart in El Paso, Texas and killed 22 people, the company is changing its policy on gun sales.
In a memo to employees on September 3, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced that the company will reduce its gun and ammunition sales. The store will also ask shoppers to not openly carry firearms and has pressured Congress to enact stronger gun-safety measures.
America's largest retailer, with more than 5,000 stores in the U.S., will no longer sell short-barrel rifle ammunition that can be used with military-style weapons or handgun ammunition. It will also stop selling handguns in Alaska, the only state it still sells handguns, and has requested that customers no longer carry guns into its stores or any of its Sam's Club stores.
“After selling through our current inventory commitments, we will discontinue sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber that, while commonly used in some hunting rifles, can also be used in large capacity clips on military-style weapons,” McMillon wrote.
This comes after Walmart saw at least two acts of gun violence this summer: An ex-Walmart associate shot and killed two other associates in Southaven, Mississippi on July 30. Just days later, a white supremacist attacked a Walmart in El Paso on August 3, killing 22 people and injuring 28 others. At the time, the company said it would be pulling violent video game displays out of stores and McMillon visited El Paso on August 6 to show support for stricter gun control legislation.
McMillon said he plans to send letters to the White House and Congress calling for "common sense" gun reform, re-authorizing the assault weapons ban, and expanding background checks. This won't be his first letter, either: The company sent letters to the White House and Congress on August 15 calling for legislators to take the debate around stronger gun control measures seriously.
“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,” McMillon wrote in Tuesday’s letter. “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 currently accounts for two percent of gun sales in the U.S. and 20 percent of ammunition sales: McMillon said he hopes this new plan will reduce that share from 20 percent to 6-9 percent. “We believe it will likely drift toward the lower end of that range, over time, given the combination of these changes,” he wrote.
The letter went on to say that many incidents since the El Paso attack — including one in which a 20-year-old man was arrested for wearing body armor and carrying a loaded rifle into the store — led them to ask customers not to open-carry weapons in Walmarts nationwide.
“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,” the letter read. “We do not sell military-style rifles, and we believe the reauthorization of the Assault Weapons ban should be debated to determine its effectiveness. We must also do more, as a country, to understand the root causes that lead to this type of violent behavior.”
But not everyone thinks Walmart is actually doing enough including CREDO Action, an organization that fights for progressive change.
"Walmart is trying to protect themselves from public and employee backlash by ending sales of ammunition and ending open carry. Any step that doesn't include ending gun sales full stop isn't enough to show a true commitment to ending gun violence and mass shootings," CREDO Action co-director Heidi Hess said in a statement. "We call on Walmart to send a message to other corporations, stand with their employees and end all gun sales in their stores."
Around 100 people in the country are killed by gun violence every day, according to Everytown For Gun Safety. Per Mass Shooting Tracker, at least 410 people in the U.S. have been killed in mass shootings this year alone. It is only the 246th day of the year.
This story has been updated to reflect that Walmart is not banning open-carry, but is simply asking that customers do not openly carry guns in the store.