Target takes aim against guns in its stores

Customers walk outside a Target store.

Alex Wong, Getty Images

A major retailer has launched the latest volley in the ongoing debate over firearms in the U.S., and the so-called open "carry laws" that have made headlines in some states.

On Wednesday, the Target (TGT) chain of stores weighed in on the controversy. In a statement on its website, interim CEO John Mulligan said the company will now "respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target -- even in communities where it is permitted by law."

"This is a complicated issue," the statement continues, "but it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create."

About 40 states have some form of open-carry law. And in recent months, supporters of those laws have staged high-profile demonstrations in Texas -- entering restaurant chains such as Chili's and retail stores like Walmart.

But there has been a backlash against such demonstrations. The National Rifle Association originally criticized the open carry demonstrations, saying that "using guns merely to draw attention to yourself in public not only defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners." It later retracted that criticism.

And last month, the national group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense started a petition -- decrying that "gun extremists armed with semiautomatic rifles have walked into Target locations around the country, weapons out and loaded, making sure customers saw their guns" -- and demanding the company act.

On Wednesday, the group issued a statement -- saying it was thankful Target responded quickly to the petition.

"Moms everywhere were horrified to see images of people carrying loaded assault rifles down the same aisles where we shop for diapers and toys," said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.

"Like Chipotle, Starbucks, Facebook, Jack in the Box, Sonic, and Chili's, Target recognized that moms are a powerful customer base and political force,' she continued, "and you can respect the 2nd Amendment and the safety of customers at the same time."