By Sarah Nassauer
Walmart Inc. said it will stop selling ammunition for assault-style rifles and handguns, further restricting the retailer's gun-related sales and policies after two deadly shootings in Walmart stores last month.
Ammunition that can be used in high-capacity magazines on assault-style guns, as well as all handgun ammunition will no longer, be sold in stores, the company said. Walmart stopped selling handguns in all U.S. stores except those in Alaska over two decades ago but will now cease such sales in that state as well.
"As a company, we experienced two horrific events in one week, and we will never be the same," Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon said in an email to employees Tuesday. "Our remaining assortment will be even more focused on the needs of hunting and sport-shooting enthusiasts."
Mr. McMillon said the company has no plans to discontinue all gun sales, adding that it has a long history of serving the hunting community and that founder Sam Walton was an avid hunter. The retailer's firearm selection is focused on hunting rifles and shotguns.
"I'm a gun owner myself," Mr. McMillon said in a statement. "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," he said. "The status quo is unacceptable."
Although it is one of the biggest U.S. sellers of firearms and ammunition, Walmart has been gradually tightening its policies as the nation confronts a rash of mass shootings. In 2015, it stopped selling assault-style rifles. Last year the company raised the minimum age to purchase guns or ammunition to 21 after a deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla.
Walmart, the country's largest retailer, said last month that it sells around 2% of firearms and 20% of the ammunition in the U.S., which the company believes places it outside the top three sellers of guns in the country.
After taking some types of ammunition off shelves, Walmart said Tuesday that it expected its market share of ammunition sales would fall to around 6% to 9% over time.
Walmart's ammunition changes exceed the measures taken by other big retailers that have tightened their gun policies in recent years after deadly shootings. Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. raised the gun- and ammunition-buying age to 21 and stopped selling assault-style rifles last year. Dick's continues to sell some ammunition that can be used in assault-style firearms, according to the company's website. The company declined to comment.
Firearm sales have flattened since Donald Trump became president, as buyers tend to stock up when they anticipate tighter gun regulations. Most firearms aren't sold at big retail chains, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Guns are often purchased at thousands of unaffiliated gun shops or at gun shows.
Ammunition is a low-margin product, and ammunition for AR-15-style rifles of the sort Walmart will stop selling is often lower-margin than hunting ammunition, said Jim Pledger, a firearms industry consultant. But "with this announcement, ammunition sales will be off the charts" as gun enthusiasts fear similar moves from other retailers, said Mr. Pledger. "Walmart is an easy place to buy ammo normally."
Some national sporting retailers, including Cabela's, Bass Pro Shops and Academy Sports & Outdoors continue to sell AR-15 and similar-style firearms and ammunition.
Last month, a gunman walked into an El Paso, Texas, Walmart with an AK-style semiautomatic rifle and killed 22 people, in one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history. Earlier that week, a Walmart employee shot and killed two other workers in a Mississippi Walmart store.
Walmart will no longer allow shoppers to carry firearms openly inside any of its stores. Shoppers with concealed-carry permits can continue to carry guns, the company said.
Since the El Paso shooting, a number of incidents of people carrying weapons that frightened workers and customers in Walmart stores have caused locations to be evacuated and local law-enforcement to be called, Mr. McMillon said in his email. "We are respectfully requesting that customers no longer openly carry firearms," he said.
Some activists and employees have called for Walmart to end gun sales or stop giving money to politicians that support the National Rifle Association, a leading gun-rights group. Walmart didn't specify any changes to its political giving.
The NRA called Walmart's decision "shameful," in a statement Tuesday. "Lines at Walmart will soon be replaced by lines at other retailers who are more supportive of America's fundamental freedoms," the group said.
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