Walmart to stop selling handgun ammunition | TribLIVE.com
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Walmart to stop selling handgun ammunition

Associated Press
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NEW YORK — Walmart says it will discontinue the sale of handgun ammunition and also publicly request that customers refrain from openly carrying firearms in stores even where state laws allow it.

The announcement comes just days after a mass shooting claimed seven lives in Odessa, Texas and follows two other back-to-back shootings last month, one of them at a Walmart store.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based discounter said Tuesday it will stop selling short-barrel and handgun ammunition, including .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber used in military style weapons, after it runs out of its current inventory. It will also discontinue handgun sales in Alaska, marking its complete exit from handguns and allowing it to focus on hunting rifles and related ammunition only.

“We have a long heritage as a company of serving responsible hunters and sportsmen and women, and we’re going to continue doing so,” according to a memo by Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon that will be circulated to employees Tuesday afternoon.

For Joe Feil, 38, of North Apollo, who was shopping at the Hempfield Walmart Tuesday, completely stopping the sale of ammunition is a decision that could impact people’s livelihoods.

“I think that (ammunition) should be maybe more limited but not actually stopped,” Feil said. “People use it for hunting and hunting sometimes is the way people get their meat or other things like taxidermy or things like that. So that’s actually stopping them from making money and that’s stopping people from maybe their livelihoods so I don’t really think it’s a great idea, permanently stopping.”

Others, including Bart Zuccala, 72, of Murrysville, think the decision will not have a large impact on gun violence with easy accessibility to the products at other locations and retailers.

John Floyd, 66, of Greensburg, agreed, adding that ammunition used in recent mass crimes were not purchased from stores like Walmart, Costco or Gander Mountain.

“It’s one of those things that the wrong people will always get ammunition and Walmart stopping the sale I don’t think changes anything,” Floyd said. “But at the same time, I don’t own a gun and I don’t see much reason for a gun. But if you’re trying to fix the problem, what Walmart’s doing is just political. It’s not going to fix the problem.”

Kayla Totos, 24, of Jeannette, differed, saying that if the decision to stop selling ammunition does have an impact, it will take time.

“If it does it might take awhile … You need ammunition for the guns and I think that stopping one place that sells them, there’s more effort to go to another place to get ammunition so that helps deter (people),” Totos said “But I don’t think it’s an immediate foolproof solution to anything. I think it will just help and it might slowly decrease gun violence.”

Walmart is further requesting that customers refrain from openly carrying firearms at its stores unless they are law enforcement officers. Last month, a gunman entered a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas and killed 22 people using an AK-style firearm that Walmart already bans the sale of. Texas became an open carry state in 2016, allowing people to openly carry firearms in public.

For Carol Stewart, 77, of Scottdale, that’s welcomed news. Stewart, who was also shopping at the Hempfield shopping center Tuesday, is a greeter at the Mt. Pleasant Walmart.

“I’m leery when I work, I definitely am,” Stewart said. “Because I’m the first face they see coming in that door. So it worries me, but I refuse to do night shifts … It’s a rough thing.”

Walmart’s moves will reduce its market share of ammunition from around 20% to a range of about 6% to 9%, according to Tuesday’s memo. About half of its more than 4,000 U.S. stores sell firearms.

The nation’s largest retailer has been facing increasing pressure to change its gun policies by gun control activists, employees and politicians after the El Paso shooting and a second unrelated shooting in Dayton, Ohio that killed nine people. A few days before that, two Walmart workers were killed by another worker at a store in Southaven, Mississippi.

In the aftermath of the El Paso shooting, Walmart ordered workers to remove video game signs and displays that depict violence from stores nationwide. But that fell well short of demands for the retailer to stop selling firearms entirely. Critics have also wanted Walmart to stop supporting politicians backed by the National Rifle Association.

The retailer has long found itself in an awkward spot with its customers and gun enthusiasts. Many of its stores are located in rural areas where hunters are depend on Walmart to get their equipment. Walmart is trying to walk a fine line by trying to embrace its hunting heritage while being a more responsible retailer.

With its new policy on “open carry,” McMillon noted in his memo that individuals have tried to make a statement by carrying weapons into its stores just to frighten workers and customers. But there are well-intentioned customers acting lawfully who have also inadvertently caused a store to be evacuated and local law enforcement to be called to respond.

He says Walmart will continue to treat “law-abiding customers with respect” and it will have a “non-confrontational approach.”

Walmart says it hopes to use its weight to help other retailers by sharing its best practices like software that it uses for background checks. And the company, which in 2015 stopped selling assault rifles like the AR-rifles used in several mass shootings, urged more debate on the reauthorization of the assault weapons ban. McMillon says Walmart will send letters to the White House and the Congressional leadership that calls for action on these “common sense” measures.

“In a complex situation lacking a simple solution, we are trying to take constructive steps to reduce the risk that events like these will happen again,” McMillon wrote in his memo. “The status quo is unacceptable.”

Over the last 15 years, Walmart had expanded beyond its hunting and fishing roots, carrying items like assault rifles in response to increasing demand. But particularly since 2015, often coinciding with major public mass shootings, the company has made moves to curb the sale of ammunition and guns.

Walmart announced in February 2018 that it would no longer sell firearms and ammunition to people younger than 21 and also removed items resembling assault-style rifles from its website. Those moves were prompted by the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people.

In 2015, Walmart stopped selling semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 style rifle, the type used in the Dayton shooting. The retailer also doesn’t sell large-capacity magazines, handguns (except in Alaska) or bump stocks, nor the AK-style firearm that was used by the El Paso shooter.

In the mid-1990s, Walmart stopped selling handguns with the exception of Alaska.

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