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Walmart halts some ammo sales and asks customers not to openly carry guns

Walmart to end some ammunition sales

A month after 22 people were fatally shot at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, the retailer is requesting that customers refrain from openly carrying guns into its stores. The company also plans to stop selling some types of ammunition and end handgun sales in Alaska, the only state where it still sells such weapons.

Since El Paso, Walmart has experienced multiple incidents in which individuals "attempting to make a statement" entered a store wielding a firearm, frightening workers and customers, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said Tuesday in news release. He also relayed incidents in which "well-intentioned customers acting lawfully" inadvertently caused stores to be evacuated and local law enforcement to be called in to respond.

"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.

No limits on concealed guns

Walmart is not changing its policy on customers carrying concealed guns with permits. "It's not a ban on our part," a Walmart spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch. Certain state laws "prohibit us from doing a complete ban," even though Walmart stores are private property, the spokesperson added.

If someone opts to openly carry a gun into one of its stores, it's up to the store manager's discretion as to how to react. In states like Alaska or Wyoming, where "open-carry" is more common, the manager might pull the customer aside and ask him or her to leave the gun in their vehicle the next time, the spokesperson said. But the reaction might be stronger "if it's a situation where it's causing alarm," he said.

In addition, Walmart will discontinue sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition, such as .223 and 5.56 caliber rounds that can be used in large-capacity clips on military-stye weapons. The company will also end sales of handgun ammunition.

The actions are Walmart's first major moves since shootings in stores in Texas and Mississippi killed 24 people. Until Tuesday, its only response involved clearing its stores of violent video game displays.

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Before the carnage in El Paso, two Walmart workers were shot to death in July by another employee at a store in Southaven, Mississippi. "As a company, we experienced two horrific events in one week, and we will never be the same,"  McMillon said of the shootings.

Walmart stopped selling assault-style weapons in 2015 and raised the minimum age to buy firearms and ammunition to 21, from 18, in 2018. It stopped selling handguns everywhere but in Alaska in 1993, and ended its sales of rifles like the AR-15 in 2015.

"Status quo is unacceptable"

McMillon on Tuesday resisted calls from some quarters that the world's biggest retailer get out of the gun-selling business altogether, saying its remaining assortment of firearms will focus on hunting and sport shooting.

Walmart will continue selling long-barrel deer rifles and shotguns, much of the ammunition they require, as well as hunting and sporting accessories and apparel.

"We believe these actions will reduce our market share of ammunition from around 20% to a range of approximately 6 to 9%," he said.

The CEO, who described himself as a gun owner, also reiterated his recent call for U.S. lawmakers and the White House to debate 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."

Walmart's moves drew praise from some quarters and criticism from others, including the National Rifle Association, which blasted Walmart's steps as "shameful," and predicted the company would see a backlash in the form of fewer customers.

New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker applauded Walmart's new policy, with the presidential contender crediting efforts by employees at the retailer and gun-safety proponents for helping bring about change.

"I'm encouraged to see Walmart doing the right thing here, and I'm hopeful that this activism proves to politicians that Americans want better standards for gun ownership in this country," he said in a statement.

Kroger, the nation's biggest supermarket chain, joined Walmart on Tuesday in calling for action from politicians to curtail mass shootings, while saying it, too, is "respectfully asking that customers no longer carry firearms" into its stores, other than authorized law enforcement officials.

"We recognize the growing chorus of Americans who are no longer comfortable with the status quo and who are advocating for concrete and common sense gun reform," Kroger said an emailed statement. 

The company stopped selling firearms and ammunition more than a year ago after offering them at its Fred Meyer stores in the Pacific Northwest. 

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