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Walmart Could Lose Lots of Customers Over New Gun Policies

Gabriella Hoffman
by Gabriella Hoffman Read Profile arrow_right_alt

In a statement to company associates, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced new changes to company policies on gun and ammunition sales plus in-store carry policies in wake of the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings.

It reads like this:

In Southaven and El Paso, our associates responded to anger and hate with courage and self-sacrifice. Our immediate priorities were supporting our associates and the impacted families and cooperating with law enforcement. In parallel, we have been focused on store safety and security. We’ve also been listening to a lot of people inside and outside our company as we think about the role we can play in helping to make the country safer. It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable.

After visiting El Paso on Aug. 6, I mentioned that we would be thoughtful and deliberate in our responses. We’re ready to share our next steps.

What are these next steps? It looks like Walmart will change how it sells firearms and ammunition. Previously, they said they stopped selling handguns and AR-15’s, rose the age for purchasing guns and ammo to 21, required a “green light” on a background check to supplement federal law’s existing requirement of a “red light” absence, videotape sale transactions of firearms, and permit only qualified associates to sell guns.

The latter two changes aren’t egregious, and the company does have the right to dictate what it can and doesn’t sell. That’s true. However, Walmart appears to be caving to political pressure. It isn’t a smart business plan. Much of the company’s clientele are rural denizens who hunt and partake in shooting sports.

Here are new policies going into effect at Walmart stores nationwide:

Today, we’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.

McMillon implies they still want to service those who hunt and shoot guns. Huh:

Our remaining assortment will be even more focused on the needs of hunting and sport shooting enthusiasts. It will include long barrel deer rifles and shotguns, much of the ammunition they require, as well as hunting and sporting accessories and apparel. We believe these actions will reduce our market share of ammunition from around 20% to a range of approximately 6 to 9%. We believe it will likely drift toward the lower end of that range, over time, given the combination of these changes.

The Walmart CEO also adds there will a ban on open carry—not concealed carry?— in stores and Sam’s Clubs going forward:

These incidents are concerning and we would like to avoid them, so we are 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 it relates to concealed carry by customers with permits, there is no change to our policy or approach

Will this impact Walmart’s bottom line? Will it deter mass shootings? It certainly will negatively impact sales and sadly not deter these tragic events. Criminals are more emboldened by gun-free zones.

Walmart runs the risk of becoming the next DICK’s Sporting Goods with these moves. They should tread carefully and remember this: the customer is always right.

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