Risk & Compliance

Walmart to Limit Ammo Sales in ‘Watershed’ Move

"We are trying to take constructive steps to reduce the risk" that events like the El Paso mass shooting will happen again.
Matthew HellerSeptember 4, 2019

A month after a gunman armed with an AK-47 killed 22 people at one of its stores in El Paso, Texas, Walmart has announced it will no longer sell ammunition that can be used in military-style assault rifles.

The nation’s largest retailer said the decision to discontinue sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber was a “thoughtful and deliberate” response to the Aug. 6 massacre and other recent shootings.

“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,” CEO Doug McMillon told employees in a memo. “The status quo is unacceptable.”

Walmart has also decided to discontinue sales of handgun ammunition and sales of handguns in Alaska, the last state where it sold such weapons.

New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin said McMillon’s move could prove to be a “watershed” that could “give license to other business leaders to enter the conversation” about responsible gun sales.

“Until now, many top executives in corporate America — with some notable exceptions — refused to acknowledge the roles they could play in curbing the epidemic of gun violence,” he wrote. “They invariably pointed to politicians in Washington as the ones who were responsible for solving the crisis.”

Walmart expects to focus on supplying rifles and ammunition for hunters. “We have a long heritage as a company of serving responsible hunters and sportsmen and women, and we’re going to continue doing so,” McMillon said.

The company also said its actions would reduce its share of the ammunition market from around 20% to a range of approximately 6 to 9%.

The National Rifle Association said Walmart would lose business to retailers who are “more supportive of America’s fundamental freedoms” and it was “shameful to see Walmart succumb to the pressure of the anti-gun elites.”

But a Walmart spokesman said the company was “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.”

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