UPDATED 9/3 @ 2:20 p.m. PDT — If timing is everything, the management at Walmart may have just made a decision that—at least in Washington State—may hurt its bottom line, as the store announced Tuesday it is discontinuing sales of handgun ammunition, according to the Washington Times.
The Washington Department of Licensing reported Tuesday that the number of active concealed pistol licenses in the Evergreen State has risen to more than 629,000. That’s up more than 1,550 CPLs from Aug. 1, and for the year, an increase of more than 29,500 active licenses since the first of the year.
The number of concealed carry licenses is also climbing in Arizona, though not quite as dramatically. Arizona copied Washington’s state constitutional right-to-bear-arms provision when it became a state in 1912. Washington’s state constitution dates back to Nov. 11, 1889.
According to the Omaha World Herald, Walmart has also asked that customers “refrain from openly carrying firearms in stores even where state laws allow it.”
The move appears to be in reaction to mass shootings over the past month, including one at a Walmart store in Texas.
The story quoted a memo from Walmart CEO Doug McMillon that is being circulated to employees. In it, McMillon says, “We have a long heritage as a company of serving responsible hunters and sportsmen and women, and we’re going to continue doing so.”
That may soothe some tempers among outdoorsmen and women, whose early hunting seasons opened over the Labor Day weekend. With most fall seasons still on the horizon, hunters will be spending lots of money on ammunition and other outdoor essentials over the next three or four months.
The National Rifle Association released the following statement: “The strongest defense of freedom has always been our free-market economy. 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. The truth is Walmart’s actions today will not make us any safer. Rather than place the blame on the criminal, Walmart has chosen to victimize law-abiding Americans. Our leaders must be willing to approach the problems of crime, violence and mental health with sincerity and honesty.”
However, stopping the sale of handgun ammunition might seem somewhat misdirected, since the recent mass shootings all involved semiautomatic rifles, which use different ammunition. The memo notes that sales of .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO ammunition will also be halted, as those cartridges can be used in some pistols that accept the same magazines as “military-style weapons.”
Walmart will also discontinue handgun sales in Alaska, the last state where such sales have been conducted.
According to published reports, Walmart—operating more than 5,000 retail stores nationwide, including more than 60 in Washington State—has “long found itself in an awkward spot with its customers and gun enthusiasts.”
“Many of its stores are located in rural areas where hunters are dependent on Walmart to get their equipment,” the report said. “Walmart is trying to walk a fine line by trying to embrace its hunting heritage while being a more responsible retailer.”
The story also noted that the new policy on open carry might be a reaction to rights activism gone a bit too far. In the memo, printed in its entirety by CNBC here, McMillon explained:
“As it relates to safety in our stores, there have been multiple incidents since El Paso where individuals attempting to make a statement and test our response have entered our stores carrying weapons in a way that frightened or concerned our associates and customers. We have also had well-intentioned customers acting lawfully that have inadvertently caused a store to be evacuated and local law enforcement to be called to respond. 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.”
McMillon also said he is sending letters to the White House and leaders in Congress, calling for action on “common sense” gun control measures. He believes there should be a debate on the merits of reauthorizing the ban on so-called “assault weapons” in an effort to “determine its effectiveness.”
“We must also do more, as a country, to understand the root causes that lead to this type of violent behavior,” the memo said.