The CEO of the world’s largest retailer is pressing Congress and President Donald Trump for “common sense measures” to stop mass shootings, and his company, Walmart, announced Tuesday that it is stopping all sales of handgun ammunition and sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition that can be used with military-style weapons, following two “horrific” shootings inside Walmarts recently.
Additionally, Walmart is stopping handgun sales in Alaska, the only state where the corporate giant still sells handguns.
Walmart and Sam’s Club stores will also ask customers to no longer openly carry firearms inside the stores in West Virginia and the 25 other states where “open carry” is permitted by state law, although Walmart will keep its current policy for customers who have permits to carry a concealed weapon, Dean Bartlett, executive vice president of corporate affairs, said during a press conference on Tuesday, according to CNN.
CNN reported that shares of gun and ammunition makers added to losses earlier in the day, with Vista Outdoor’s stock closing down 6 percent Tuesday. Smith & Wesson parent company American Outdoor Brands’ stock fell nearly 4.5 percent. Walmart shares closed Tuesday up 0.3 percent following its announcement.
The announcement is a turnaround from Aug. 15 when Walmart defended the sales, which account for 20 percent of all ammunition sales in the U.S.
“We believe the opportunity for someone to misinterpret a situation, even in open carry states, could lead to tragic results,” CEO Doug McMillon said in a memo distributed to employees on Tuesday. “We hope that everyone will understand the circumstances that led to this new policy and will respect the concerns of their fellow shoppers and our associates.
“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,” he added. “It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable.”
McMillon said he will also be sending letters to the White House and congressional leaders, asking for action on “common sense measures.” He’s calling on the government to “strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger.”
“Congress and the administration should act,” the CEO said.
Two deadly shootings occurred at American Walmarts over the summer. In July, a shooting at a Mississippi Walmart left two dead. On Aug. 12, a gunman, using a semi-automatic weapon, killed 22 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas.
A second, non-fatal shooting of one person inside a Hobart, Ind., Walmart occurred Sunday.
On Aug. 15, McMillon had told reporters that Walmart is responsible for 1 out of every 5 bullets sold in the United States.
At that time, the CEO had defended sales of the bullets but said he was open to “common sense” discussions about background checks.
It was unclear Tuesday if Walmart officials had recently gained knowledge of whether bullets purchased at Walmart have been used in any of the recent shootings at Walmart stores or if ammunition from Walmart was used in any of the mass killings that have occurred in the United States since the 1990s.
Walmart representatives from store headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., did not immediately return calls on Tuesday afternoon.
At the Beckley Walmart, a store manager told The Register-Herald Tuesday afternoon that he was not authorized to speak to media but added that he did not anticipate local customers being happy with the decision by corporate.
Five customers — two women and three men, black and white, ranging in age from 24 to 70 — polled by The Register-Herald inside the store said they were “pro-gun” or that they disagreed with the decision by Walmart to stop selling the ammunition nationwide.
Only two customers agreed to have their names used with this story.
“The majority of the people that live in West Virginia, or most anywhere in the United States, wants to be able to keep their guns to protect themselves, and it’s a Constitutional right,” said Pamela Buckland, 70, of Glen Daniel.
The FBI Uniform Crime Report shows that in 2015, the gun murder rate in West Virginia, where 54 percent of residents legally own a firearm, was 1.7 percent — among the lowest in the nation.
In Texas, where two mass shootings have occurred in the past month, legal gun ownership was about 36 percent in 2015, while the gun murder rate was 3.3 percent.
Sean Belcher, 24, of Beckley said he is “very OK” with gun ownership. His fiancee owns a firearm, and he said he is in the process of getting his own.
Like Buckland, Belcher suggested the decision by Walmart does not consider the shopping patterns of local, law-abiding citizens.
“I believe they’re trying, that it’s their way of protecting people, but the truth is guns don’t kill people,” said Belcher, who reported he has served in the military. “People kill people.
“Whether we like it or not, people in this world are evil. You’ve got some good, some bad. People that want to cause harm to other people, that’s their intent.”
He noted that Walmart had to “take care of those” people who have bad intentions, but said the policy announced Tuesday is not how he would want the store to do it.
“I’m glad Walmart is trying to make an effort, but, at the same time, you’ve got to take into consideration other customers and what they may want,” he said.