Walmart Inc said on Tuesday it would discontinue sales of ammunition for handguns and some assault-style rifles in stores across the United States, in response to the recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, including one at a Walmart store.
The largest US arms retailer, which has been under pressure to change its policies on gun sales, also said it would discontinue handgun sales in Alaska, the only state where it still sells these guns.
Walmart has already ended sales of assault rifles and raised the minimum age for gun purchases to 21. The latest move will leave it focused on weapons for hunting, including deer rifles, shotguns and related ammunition.
The company will stop selling all handgun ammunition and some short-barrel rifle ammunition, such as the .223 calibre and 5.56 calibre after clearing current stock. Although short-barrel ammunition is commonly used in some hunting rifles for small animals such as prairie dogs, they can also be used in military-style weapons with high-capacity magazines.
The nation’s largest retailer has been facing increasing pressure to change its gun policies by gun control activists, employees and politicians after the death of 22 people in a mass shooting in a Walmart store in El Pasto, Texas as well as deadly shootings in Ohio and Saturday’s incident in Midland and Odessa, Texas. A few days before the El Paso shooting, two Walmart workers were killed by another worker at a store in Southaven, Mississippi.
Just last month, the company said it would not change its policy on selling firearms even as it took down signs and playable demos of violent video games.
“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,“ Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon said in a letter to Walmart‘s associates on Tuesday.
“The status quo is unacceptable,” he added. “As a company, we experienced two horrific events in one week, and we will never be the same.”
The company added that its latest actions would reduce its market share of ammunition from about 20 percent to a range of about six to nice percent, and would trend towards the lower end of that range over time.
McMillon said he would send letters to the White House and the Congressional leadership, urging the government to strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who could pose an imminent danger.
“These horrific events occur and then the spotlight fades … Given our decades of experience selling firearms, we are also offering to serve as a resource in the national debate on responsible gun sales,” he said.
The retailer is further requesting that customers refrain from openly carrying firearms at its Walmart and Sam’s Club stores unless they are law enforcement officers. However, it said that it will not be changing its policy for customers who have permits for concealed carry. Walmart says it will be adding signage in stores to inform customers of those changes.
Walmart said it hopes 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 reauthorisation of the assault weapons ban while also calling for the government to strengthen background checks.