USA: Walmart to discontinue handgun ammunition sales following civil society pressure after El Paso attack

On August 3, 2019, a man killed 22 people and injured another 24 people with an assualt rifle in a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. The perpetrator drove about 11 hours from his home in Allen, Texas to the Walmart in El Paso to commit the attack. In advance of the attack, the perpetrator is believed to have posted a document with white nationalist and racist hatred toward immigrants and Hispanics on 8chan (see more here). 

Four days earlier, a recently suspended employee at a Walmart store in Southaven, Mississippi shot and killed two co-workers and wounded two other people. 

Following these attacks, civil society groups and people across the United States have called for Walmart to stop selling firearms and to take further action to help build safer communities. The Walmart Must Act Coalition, comprised of Guns Down America, Color of Change, March for Our Lives, The Women's March, The American Federation of Teachers, Latino Victory Project, Move On, Daily Kos, People for the American Way, Change the Ref, and Orange Ribbons for Jaime are calling upon Walmart to:

  • Stop selling firearms and ammunition until we raise the national standard for gun ownership and production;
  • Pledge they’ll no longer make political contributions to lawmakers who get their money from the NRA;
  • Pledge that they’ll use their political influence to advocate for legislative changes to raise the standard of gun production and ownership in America, including a ban on military-style weapons; [and]
  • Invest in the communities they serve and fund gun buybacks in key areas around the country.

We invited Walmart to respond; response provided below. 

On 3 September 2019, Walmart announced that it would discontinue handgun ammunition, discontinue handgun sales in Alaska (marking the company's complete exit from handguns), and discourage open carry of guns in its stores.

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Article
16 September 2019

CEOs of 145 of America's biggest companies send letter to senators urging gun legislation

Author: Frank Thorp V & Elizabeth Chuck, NBC News

A group of 145 CEOs from some of the largest companies in America have sent a letter to senators demanding they pass stronger gun control laws, calling firearm violence "a public health crisis that demands urgent action." The letter, signed by the chief executives of Uber, Levi Strauss & Co., Twitter and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., among other companies, urges Congress to expand background checks and "red flag" laws, legislation that would enable law enforcement to temporarily take guns away from people deemed a danger to themselves or others... "We are writing to you because we have a responsibility and obligation to stand up for the safety of our employees, customers and all Americans in the communities we serve across the country. Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety."

Read the full post here

Article
12 September 2019

Leaders of 145 companies ask US Senate to pass gun safety measures

Author: Airbnb, Bloomberg LP, Gap & 142 other companies

Every day, 100 Americans are shot and killed and hundreds more are wounded... This is a public health crisis that demands urgent action... As leaders of some of America's most respected companies and those with significant business interests in the United States, we are writing to you because we have a responsibility and obligation to stand up for the safety of our employees, customers and all Americans in the communities we serve across the country. Doing nothing about America's gun violence crisis is
simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety... [W]e urge the Senate to stand with the American public and take action on gun safety by passing a bill to require background checks on all gun sales and a strong Red Flag law that would allow courts to issue life-saving extreme risk protection orders... These proposals are common-sense, bipartisan and widely supported by the American public. It is time for the Senate to take action.

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Article
5 September 2019

Following Walmart’s lead, Kroger asks customers not to openly carry firearms in stores

Author: Taylor Telford & Abha Bhattarai, The Washington Post

Kroger followed Walmart in asking customers not to display their firearms in stores located in “open carry” states, becoming the latest big chain to reshape its business around gun reform amid a spate of mass shootings. The nation’s two biggest grocers also are pushing for tougher background checks, bowing to public pressure that has been building since deadly shootings at Walmart stores in El Paso and Southaven, Miss., claimed 24 lives and wounded dozens this summer. “Kroger is respectfully asking that customers no longer openly carry firearms into our stores, other than authorized law enforcement officers,” Jessica Adelman, group vice president of corporate affairs, said in a statement to CNBC on Tuesday. “We are also joining those encouraging our elected leaders to pass laws that will strengthen background checks and remove weapons from those who have been found to pose a risk for violence.”

... Walmart sells guns in about half of its 4,750 U.S. stores but stopped selling military-style rifles favored by mass shooters in 2015. But until now, it made up about 20 percent of the ammunition market. Now, that share could fall to as little as 6 percent, the company said. Walmart will continue selling long-barrel deer rifles and shotguns, as well as other firearms and ammunition for hunting and sports shooting.

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Article
5 September 2019

Response from Walmart to Guns Down America rejoinder

Author: Walmart

... [W]e [have] announced changes surrounding the firearm and ammunition category as well as making a change to the Open Carry of Firearms policy within our U.S. stores and clubs. Additionally, we are encouraging our nation’s leaders to take action to address the issue of gun safety. Below are the specific changes:

  • After selling through our current inventory commitments, we will discontinue sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition... that, while commonly used in some hunting rifles, can also be used in large capacity clips on military-style weapons.
  • We will sell through and discontinue handgun ammunition.
  • We will sell through and discontinue handgun sales in Alaska marking our complete exit from handguns.
  • ... [W]e are 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.
  • We are encouraging 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 should be debated to determine its effectiveness... Our CEO, Doug McMillon, is sending letters to the White House and the Congressional leadership that outline our position and call for action on these common-sense measures.

Download the full document here

Article
5 September 2019

Shareholders commend Walmart for stepping out to promote gun safety

Author: Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility are highlighting gun safety measures announced by Walmart... as an example of how companies can show leadership in responding to gun violence when legislators fail to act... CEO Doug McMillon solicited input from shareholder members of ICCR, a variety of stakeholder groups with diverse perspectives, including outside gun safety advocacy groups and its employees... “This intentional openness... demonstrates in practice what the Business Roundtable committed to in principle regarding stakeholder engagement in its recent ‘Statement on the Purpose of a Company’,” said Sr. Barbara Aires of the Sisters of Charity of Elizabeth, NJ... “Walmart has shown us what authentic stakeholder engagement can look like, and we commend not only the positive changes it is making to address gun violence, but the thoughtful process it undertook to reach its decisions.”

The investors urged the company to publicly commit to lobby for reasonable gun laws and press Congress to ban assault weapons, tighten background checks and institute gun licensing, among other policy changes, and were encouraged to see that Walmart is using its influence to press for these reforms. Separately, ICCR members have attempted to directly engage gun manufacturers and retailers to prompt careful reflection on solutions designed to foster gun safety. Investors argue that, due to their lethality, weapons sold to civilians carry enormous human rights risks and companies associated with this industry must be circumspect about product offerings, business relationships, supply chain policies, marketing practices and public lobbying activities.

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Article
4 September 2019

Walmart plans to discontinue selling handgun ammunition & work alongside other retailers to make the industry safer

Author: Walmart CEO Doug McMillon

"McMillon to associates: Our next steps in response to the tragedies in El Paso and Southaven," 3 Sept 2019

We’ve previously made decisions to stop selling handguns or military-style rifles... [W]e’re sharing the decisions we’ve made that go further:

  • After selling through our current inventory commitments, we will discontinue sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber that, while commonly used in some hunting rifles, can also be used in large capacity clips on military-style weapons;
  • We will sell through and discontinue handgun ammunition; and
  • We will discontinue handgun sales in Alaska, marking our complete exit from handguns.

... [W]e are [also] 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... As an additional step, we commit we will work alongside other retailers to make the overall industry safer... [W]e 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. 

Read the full post here

Article
4 September 2019

Walmart to limit ammunition sales and discourage ‘open carry’ of guns in stores

Author: Michael Corkery, The New York Times

Walmart stepped forcefully into the national gun debate on Tuesday, saying it would stop selling ammunition that can be used in military-style assault rifles, would discourage its customers from openly carrying guns in its stores and would call on Congress to increase background checks and consider a new assault rifle ban... Walmart said it made the announcement after weeks of discussion and research about how best to respond. The decision is in line with public opinion polls that favor more gun controls, and advocates, gun violence victims and others have increasingly called for action. The company said that after “selling through our current inventory commitments,” which could take several weeks, it would stop selling certain short-barrel rifle ammunition and all handgun ammunition... It called on leaders in Washington to enact stronger background checks to “remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger.” The company said it also supported a new debate over an assault rifle ban... “As we’ve seen before, these horrific events occur and then the spotlight fades,” Walmart’s chief executive, Doug McMillon, said in the statement. “We should not allow that to happen. Congress and the administration should act.”

NGO rejoinder
28 August 2019

Rejoinder from Guns Down America to Walmart

Author: Guns Down America

We recognize and applaud Walmart for taking significant steps to limit the availability of firearms in its store... In fact, Walmart’s consistent leadership on this issue and its willingness to go beyond existing federal law governing firearm sales suggests that the company is truly committed to, as Walmart SVP Katherine Neebe put it, “foster an inclusive environment where all people are valued and welcomed.”... Walmart should go further because it has an obligation to keep its workers -- and its customers -- safe... Walmart has a responsibility to ensure that its business practices are not a threat to public safety. That means it must take basic steps like outlawing open carry in its stores while also ending gun sales until we raise the standard for gun ownership in America, re-evaluate political giving to lawmakers and candidates who take money from the NRA, and use its lobbying clout and political relationships to actively advocate for gun reform... Retail experts estimate that Walmart’s existing business relationships with the gun industry earns the corporation at least $220 million a year in gun sales. These relationships also enrich the very same gun manufacturers that are producing firearms of ever increasing lethality... While Walmart rightly doesn’t sell these most lethal firearms, it does continue to engage in business relationships that help those companies prosper. That must end.

Download the full document here

Article
26 August 2019

Walmart must help build safer communities with fewer guns

Author: Guns Down America

Walmart is the largest retailer in America and one of the largest gun retailers in the world. That means they have tremendous political sway and we need them to join the fight in building safer communities with fewer guns.

While Walmart made progress in 2015 and 2018, there is much more they must do. We demand they take the following actions immediately:

  • Stop selling firearms in a country where they’re already incredibly easy to get
  • Pledge they’ll no longer make political contributions to lawmakers who get their money from the NRA
  • Pledge that they’ll use their political influence to advocate for legislative changes to raise the standard of gun production and ownership in America
  • Invest in the communities they serve and fund gun buybacks in key areas around the country

Read the full post here

Company response
23 August 2019

Response from Walmart

Author: Walmart

... We’re also thinking through the broader issues related to gun violence and things we should do to help create safer communities...

1. Currently, we sell firearms/ammunition to meet the needs of our hunting/sportsman customer in select stores. Firearms/ammunition represent... an extremely small part of Walmart total sales.

  • Contrary to some media reports, we estimate that we represent about two percent of the US market for firearms today, which we believe places us outside at least the top three sellers in the industry. We estimate we have about a 20 percent share of ammunition. 
  • We stopped selling handguns in every state (except for Alaska) in the mid-90s.
  • We stopped selling military-style rifles such as the AR-15 in 2015.

2. We have attempted to take common sense steps that allow us to serve customers while creating a safer environment.

  • We raised the age limit to purchase a firearm or ammunition to 21 in 2018.
  • Walmart only sells a firearm after receiving a “green light” on a background check, while federal law only requires the absence of a “red light” after three business days

3. ... [W]e’re encouraged that broad support is emerging to 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 (or other measures) should be discussed to determine how best to keep weapons made for war out of the hands of mass murderers. 

Download the full document here