Officials with Walmart Inc. said Friday that employees are putting guns and ammunition back on sales floors in stores nationwide, reversing the decision to move the items announced one day earlier.
Update 3:25 p.m. EDT Oct 30: Walmart officials said Thursday that guns and ammo would no longer be on display in stores, although people would still be able to buy the items upon request.
“After civil unrest earlier this week resulted in damage to several of our stores ... we asked stores to move firearms and ammunition from the sales floor,” Walmart officials said In a statement obtained by Reuters. "(A)s the current incidents have remained geographically isolated, we have made the decision to begin returning these products to the sales floor today.”
Original report: In a bid to limit violence amid mounting social unrest, Walmart Inc. on Thursday removed all guns and ammunition from its sales floors in stores nationwide.
The retail behemoth, which sells firearms and ammo in about half of its 4,700 U.S. stores, said customers can still purchase the items upon request but all in-store displays have been removed, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The step has been taken as a “precaution for the safety of our associates and customers,” a Walmart spokesperson told the Journal, noting no timeframe has been set for returning the items to store shelves.
“It’s important to note that we only sell firearms in approximately half of our stores, primarily where there are large concentrations of hunters, sportsmen and sportswomen. We have seen some isolated civil unrest and as we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor,” the statement continued.
The announcement comes after several days of violent protests and looting in Philadelphia this week after police shot a Black man in that city on Monday.
In a letter to store managers Tuesday, Walmart asked staff to pull guns from shelves “due to the current unrest in isolated areas of the country and out of an abundance of caution,” the Journal reported.
The same step was taken in the wake of the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police after several Walmart locations were damaged during protests.
Phillip Arrington, who owns Goodlettsville Gun Shop in Tennessee, told WKRN that smaller stores do not have the same security considerations as big-box retailers, making the removal step unnecessary.
“A lot of your smaller stores have more adequate security where we don’t have to do that,” Arrington told the TV station, noting “gun sales have been off the charts industry-wide for 2020.”
According to the Journal, Walmart already halted sales of ammunition that can be used in semiautomatic rifles and handguns, following the Aug. 3, 2019, mass shooting at a store in El Paso, Texas, that left 23 people dead. The company also raised the minimum purchase age for ammunition to 21 in 2018, after a deadly mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school.