Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Walmart, Sam's Club and Kroger announce changes meant to curb gun violence, get mixed reactions

Yesterday retail giants Walmart and Kroger announced steps aimed at curbing gun violence. Walmart and Sam's Club made the first announcement, saying it will discontinue all sales of ammunition for short-barrel rifles, which can be used in military-style firearms, and handgun ammunition after their current stock runs out. The chain will also stop handgun sales in Alaska, the only state where it sells them, and will ask customers to not carry firearms openly unless they are law enforcement officers, even in "open carry" states, Lauren Thomas reports for CNBC.

The announcement came more than a month after two deadly shootings in Walmarts this summer. The company initially responded by removing displays for violent video games, but did not alter its gun sale or carry policies, Thomas reports. But yesterday, CEO Doug McMillon said that, though the company has stopped selling military-style rifles and most handguns, has raised the purchase age to 21, and placed more stringent background checks on buyers, "It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable." The new policy will reduce Walmart's market share of ammunition from about 20% to 6-9%, he said.

Walmart will continue to allow customers with permits to carry concealed, but "if someone opts to openly carry a gun into one of its stores, it's up to the store manager's discretion as to how to react," reports Kate Gibson of CBS News. "In states like Alaska or Wyoming, where 'open-carry' is more common, the manager might pull the customer aside and ask him or her to leave the gun in their vehicle the next time. ... The reaction might be stronger 'if it's a situation where it's causing alarm'," a Walmart spokesman told Gibson.

McMillon also called on the nation's leaders to strengthen background-check laws and take weapons from people who pose an immediate danger. He equivocated on reauthorizing the assault-weapons ban, but said the U.S. must do more to determine the root causes that lead to shootings. He also offered to work with other retailers to make the industry safer, Thomas reports.

Kroger followed Walmart in asking non-law-enforcement customers to not carry openly, Thomas reports for CNBC. "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," Kroger Group Vice President of Corporate Affairs Jessica Adelman said..

Kroger began phasing out all firearm and ammo sales at its Fred Meyer stores in March 2018 after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which Adelman said demonstrated that "we recognize the growing chorus of Americans who are no longer comfortable with the status quo and who are advocating for concrete and common sense gun reforms," Thomas reports.

The announcements brought mixed reactions. On Twitter, many high-profile users interpreted the anti-open carry policy as mainly symbolic, though proponents of the move hailed it as a step in the right direction, and opponents panned it as virtue signaling, Aine Cain reports for Business Insider

One shopper at a Scranton-area Walmart said he disagreed with the decision, Peggy Lee reports for WNEP. "People have to protect themselves in the street. The street is bad right now, and if you don't have any bullets or something to defend yourself, how are you going to defend yourself?" Michael Caseo told Lee. But shopper Jessica Petche said she approved the move: "I think that's absolutely needed. I don't think weapons should be available everywhere."

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