By Sarah Nassauer
Drugstore chains CVS Health Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and grocer Wegmans Food Markets Inc. on Thursday asked customers to stop openly carrying firearms in stores, adding to a growing list of companies that are wading into the debate around how to reduce gun violence.
"We join a growing chorus of businesses in requesting that our customers, other than authorized law-enforcement personnel, do not bring firearms into our stores," CVS said.
"The sight of someone with a gun can be alarming, and we don't want anyone to feel that way at Wegmans," the grocer's corporate Twitter account said Thursday.
The statements come two days after Walmart Inc., the country's largest retailer, asked shoppers to stop carrying guns openly in stores and said the company will cease sales of ammunition that can be used in assault-style rifles and handguns. Last month, 22 people died in a mass shooting in an El Paso, Texas, Walmart, prompting company executives to rethink their policies around gun violence in the U.S.
Kroger Co. earlier this week also asked shoppers to stop openly carrying guns after Walmart made its announcement.
In 41 states, it is legal to openly carry a loaded long gun in public, according to the Giffords Law Center, a gun-control group. Thirty-one states allow the open carrying of a handgun without a license or permit, although in some cases the gun must be unloaded. Most states prohibit carrying firearms in specific locations such as schools, places where alcohol is served or on public transportation.
Retailers and other companies face growing pressure from customers and employees to take a stance on social or public health issues such as gun violence or gay rights. Advocating for more gun control can be risky for large companies because of the potential to offend some percentage of customers. But the majority of American adults believe that gun laws should be stricter than they are today, according to a survey late last year by the Pew Research Center.
Over the past decade, gun-control advocates including Moms Demand Action have asked various retailers including Kroger, Target Corp. and Starbucks Corp. to stop allowing customers to openly carry guns in stores. Those efforts came in the wake of the popularity of the open-carry movement -- pro-gun activists encouraging supporters to openly carry firearms in public places to build support for gun rights.
In 2013, Starbucks asked customer to no longer do so, followed by Target in 2014.
--Sharon Terlep contributed to this article.
Write to Sarah Nassauer at firstname.lastname@example.org