Walmart ends all handgun ammunition sales and asks customers not to carry guns into stores

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New York (CNN Business)Walmart on Tuesday announced it will reduce its gun and ammunition sales, one month after more than 20 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Walmart also pressured Congress to enact gun safety measures. The company, America’s largest retailer, said it will stop selling handgun ammunition and “short-barrel rifle ammunition,” such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber, that can also be used on assault-style weapons after selling all of its current inventory. 

Walmart (WMT) will also stop selling handguns in Alaska, the only state where it still sells handguns. And Walmart will request that customers no longer openly carry guns into its 4,700 US stores, or its Sam’s Club stores, in states that allow open carry.”It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a memo to employees on Tuesday.

However, Walmart will continue to sell long barrel deer rifles and shotguns and much of the ammunition for those guns. Walmart will also continue to allow concealed carry by customers with permits in its stores.McMillon said Walmart’s changes were prompted by the El Paso, Texas, shooting, as well as recent mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and Midland and Odessa, Texas.

The measured steps announced Tuesday are the latest changes Walmart has made to its gun policies in recent years as mass shootings continue in America. Walmart attempted again to balance customers who own guns and are “part of our customer base” with safety in stores, Dan Bartlett, Walmart executive vice president of corporate affairs, said on a call with reporters.”We feel like we are striking a responsible balance between the interests of law-abiding citizens who are exercising their legal rights and the safety concerns of our associates and customers,” he said.

Walmart represents about 2% of the market for guns today, the company said for the first time recently. Walmart believes it is not among the top three gun sellers in the industry, but it estimates it has about a 20% market share of ammunition sales. On Tuesday, McMillon said that Walmart’s changes to ammunition policies will reduce its market share from around 20% to between 6% and 9%. “We believe it will likely drift toward the lower end of that range, over time, given the combination of these changes,” he said.

McMillion, who said he was a gun owner himself, took pains to avoid alienating customers.”We will treat law-abiding customers with respect, and we will have a very non-confrontational approach,” he said. “Our remaining assortment will be even more focused on the needs of hunting and sport shooting enthusiasts.”In addition, McMillon said that he would send letters to the White House and congressional leaders that “call for action” on “common sense” gun safety measures.

McMillon said Congress should debate re-authorizing the assault weapons ban and expand background checks.”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,” he said. “Congress and the administration should act. Given our decades of experience selling firearms, we are also offering to serve as a resource in the national debate on responsible gun sales.”

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