On Tuesday, Doug McMillon, Walmart’s President and CEO, announced the company’s next steps in addressing recent shootings at Walmart locations in El Paso, Texas and Southaven, Mississippi. These will include the discontinued sales of ammunition designed for handguns and military-style rifles, such as the AR-15.
But McMillon also said the company would “respectfully request that customers no longer openly carry firearms into their stores” and Sam’s Club locations in states where “open carry” is permitted, unless they are authorized law enforcement officers.
Then on Tuesday evening, Jessica Adelman, the Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Kroger, announced that the grocer is adopting the same policy and “encouraging elected leaders to pass laws that will strengthen background checks,” according to an emailed statement.
Customers And Staff
Some experts believe this move won’t affect most of Walmart or Kroger’s customers, even the ones who carry their firearms into the store.
David Yamane, a professor of Sociology at Wake Forest University, studies firearm culture in the U.S.
“It’s rare that you see people openly carrying firearms in public,” Yamane said. “Most private citizens who carry firearms, carry their firearms concealed.”
Yamane says people who openly carry their firearms in public places make up a small number in the gun-owning community.
“These people are trying to make political statements,” Yamane said. But “they’re not the types that want to cause a scene, if they’re asked to leave a place because they’re openly carrying.”
Customers will still be allowed to carry their firearms concealed in Kroger and Walmart as that policy has not changed.
Yamane says it’s unclear as to how the companies are going to enforce the new policy. He believes they will need to train employees on appropriate ways to handle customers who openly carry their firearms.
Joseph Blocher, the co-director of the Duke Firearms Law Center, says there’s a lot about how this new policy would work that we still don’t know. For example:
“How is Walmart going to enforce this? How stringently?” Blocher said. “We don’t know how much bite the policy is going to have.”
How The Second Amendment Factors In
The National Rifle Association (NRA) issued a statement against Walmart’s decision, saying the company “has chosen to victimize law abiding Americans.”
“It is shameful to see @Walmart succumb to the pressure of the anti-gun elites. Lines at Walmart will soon be replaced by lines at other retailers who are more supportive of America’s fundamental freedoms.”
— NRA (@NRA) September 3, 2019
Some gun owners have called the move unconstitutional. But Blocher says that argument is irrelevant.
“Walmart is not bound by the Second Amendment any more than they are bound by the First Amendment,” Blocher said. “And if they want to prohibit guns on their property, that’s — just like any private property owner — something that they’re empowered by law to do.”
Blocher says the policy could be similar in practice to the “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” rule many stores have.
He also says this policy could be more symbolic than practical.
“Decisions to stop selling handgun ammunition, for example, or a decision to get out of the guns business entirely — those are big changes to the supply of arms,” Blocher said. “Those probably do have direct and immediate impact, assuming that businesses follow through with their announced changes.”
According to a new poll from Axios, the move could be a win for the leadership at Kroger and Walmart in the court of public opinion.
Edelman Trust Barometer research conducted the poll and found that companies “have more to gain than they put at risk by taking a stand” on guns because “consumers are more likely to respond positively than negatively to a CEO or company that takes action to address gun violence.”
Walmart did not respond to comment within deadline for this story.
Update 9/05/2019 2:25 p.m.: Walgreens announced they will be joining Walmart and Kroger in asking customers to not open carry in their stores.
Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.