NEW YORK — With mass shootings becoming an all too frequent occurrence in American life, the debate over gun control continues to be a hot-button topic for the nation.
As many politicians, including presidential candidates, as well as a growing number of citizens, call for tighter gun control measures, many retailers are adhering to the requests of a those consumers who do not believe open carry of firearms should be allowed in their stores.
Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy, as well as Wegmans Food Markets, recently announced that they were changing their policies on guns in stores, just two days after Walmart and Kroger Co. joined the national gun debate by asking shoppers not to openly carry firearms into stores in states that allow open carry.
“We support the efforts of individuals and groups working to prevent gun violence, and continually review our policies and procedures to ensure our stores remain a safe environment,” CVS said in a statement. “We join a growing chorus of businesses in requesting that our customers, other than authorized law enforcement personnel, do not bring firearms into our stores.”
Walgreens added: “We are joining other retailers in asking our customers to no longer openly carry firearms into our stores other than authorized law enforcement officials.”
In announcing its decision to stopping selling ammunition for handguns and some types of rifles, Walmart chief executive officer Doug McMillon, himself a gun owner, said the decision was made following two recent shootings in Walmart stores.
“We believe the opportunity for someone to misinterpret a situation, even in open carry states, could lead to tragic results,” he said, adding that customers with a concealed carry permit are still welcome in stores. Walmart’s announcement comes after a gunman killed 22 people and injured more than two dozen others at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. Four days prior to the El Paso incident, a Walmart employee at a store in Southaven, Miss., shot and killed two associates and wounded a police officer.
“In Southaven and El Paso, our associates responded to anger and hate with courage and self-sacrifice. Our immediate priorities were supporting our associates and the impacted families and cooperating with law enforcement. In parallel, we have been focused on store safety and security,” McMillon wrote. “We’ve also been listening to a lot of people inside and outside our company as we think about the role we can play in helping to make the country safer. It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable.
“After visiting El Paso on August 6, I mentioned that we would be thoughtful and deliberate in our responses. We’re ready to share our next steps. We’ve been giving a lot of thought to our sale of firearms and ammunition. We’ve previously made decisions to stop selling handguns or military-style rifles such as the AR-15, to raise the age limit to purchase a firearm or ammunition to 21, to require a ‘green light’ on a background check while federal law only requires the absence of a ‘red light,’ to videotape the point of sale for firearms, and to only allow certain trained associates to sell firearms. Today, we’re sharing the decisions we’ve made that go further.”
The policy change takes effect immediately, McMillon said, with stores ceasing to offer those products after selling through existing inventories. The retailer stopped selling handguns in all U.S. stores except those in Alaska over two decades ago but will now cease such sales in that state as well.
“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,” he said. “Our remaining assortment will be even more focused on the needs of hunting and sport shooting enthusiasts.”