WASHINGTON – Walmart announced on Tuesday a set of steps in reaction to the most recent mass shootings in the United States, including the Aug. 3 massacre of 22 people at one of the retail giant’s stores in El Paso, Texas.
“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. The status quo is unacceptable,” CEO Doug McMillon said in letter to Walmart employees.
Once current inventories are exhausted, Walmart will cease sales of ammunition for handguns and for short-barrel rifles, he said, noting that bullets of the latter type can be loaded into large capacity clips for assault weapons.
McMillon also said that Walmart stores in Alaska will no longer sell handguns.
The world’s largest retailer earlier ended handgun sales in the other 49 US states.
Another aspect of the initiative is a call on Walmart customers in states that permit “open carry” of guns to refrain from carrying weapons into the company’s stores.
“As it relates to safety in our stores, there have been multiple incidents since El Paso where individuals attempting to make a statement and test our response have entered our stores carrying weapons in a way that frightened or concerned our associates and customers,” McMillon wrote.
“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,” the CEO of the Bentonville, Arkansas-based chain said.
Half of Walmart’s 4,700 US stores sell guns and ammunition.
“We have a long heritage as a company of serving responsible hunters and sportsmen and women, and we’re going to continue doing so,” McMillon said. “We understand that heritage, our deeply rooted place in America and our influence as the world’s largest retailer. And we understand the responsibility that comes with it. We want what’s best for our customers, our associates and our communities.”
Days before the bloodbath in El Paso, two Walmart employees were killed by one of their co-workers at the company’s store in Southaven, Mississippi.
And the massacre in El Paso was followed within hours by the fatal shooting of nine people in Dayton, Ohio.
Last Saturday, a gunman killed seven people and wounded 25 others in Midland and Odessa, Texas.
The horrors in El Paso and Dayton revived the national debate about gun control in the US, where Congress last passed meaningful legislation on the issue more than two decades ago.
While each mass shooting brings calls for action, lawmakers remain reluctant to take a firm stand, due in large part to the influence of the powerful National Rifle Association.
McMillon addressed the controversy in his message to Walmart employees.
“Finally, we encourage our nation’s leaders to move forward and strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger. We do not sell military-style rifles, and we believe the reauthorization of the Assault Weapons ban (which lapsed in the mid-1990s) should be debated to determine its effectiveness,” the CEO said.