Retail giant Walmart has decided to stop selling ammunition for assault-style rifles and handguns, a decision that follows two deadly shootings at its stores in early August.
Recent mass shootings have actualized the issue of gun control and put pressure on both lawmakers and retailers to take measures to reduce gun violence. Other big retailers have already taken steps to tighten their gun policies, but Walmart’s move exceeds all those measures.
Members of Congress are yet to meet and work on gun legislation, although expectations that anything meaningful will be passed are not high. White House officials have already discussed with congressional aides possible measures to tighten background checks and boost mental health services.
Pressure has also been mounting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call the chamber back from recess and bring a gun control bill to the floor. However, McConnell has said that he would follow President Donald Trump’s lead on gun policy, although Trump has not yet endorsed a concrete legislative package.
Walmart’s policy change, announced Tuesday, is effective immediately, while the retailer has also decided to stop selling handguns in Alaska, the last state where they were still sold.
“As a company, we experienced two horrific events in one week, and we will never be the same,” Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon wrote in an email to employees Tuesday. “Our remaining assortment will be even more focused on the needs of hunting and sport-shooting enthusiasts.”
The decision to discontinue sales of ammunition for assault rifles was praised by Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who called it “a step in the right direction”, adding that further steps still need to be taken.
“We need universal background checks, we need red flag laws, and we need to buy back every single assault weapon,” the former congressman said.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, another presidential hopeful, said Walmart’s move was a “good start – but it’s not nearly enough.” She called for “real gun reform.”
“I applaud the brave Walmart workers who called on the company to stop selling guns. This is a good step, but we still have a gun violence crisis,” wrote Senator Bernie Sanders.
Yet, Walmart’s move was not well received by everyone. The National Rifle Association called it “shameful.”
“The strongest defense of freedom has always been our free-market economy. It is shameful to see Walmart to succumb to the pressure of the anti-gun elites,” the NRA said in a statement. “Lines at Walmart will soon be replaced by lines at other retailers who are more supportive of America’s fundamental freedoms.”