One day after Walmart announced it was removing all guns and ammunition from its shelves ahead of the U.S. presidential election, the retail giant reversed course on what it had characterized as a safety precaution ahead of potential civil unrest.
“We have seen some isolated civil unrest and as we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers,” Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg told NBC News in a statement on Thursday, Oct. 29.
By the next day Lundberg was announcing the company’s change of plans, saying, “As the current incidents have remained geographically isolated, we have made the decision to begin returning these products to the sales floor today.”
The company’s allusion to isolated current problems was likely a reference to a Walmart store in Philadelphia being looted overnight on Oct. 27 during the civil unrest following the police shooting of 27-year-old African-American man Walter Wallace in Philly on Oct. 26.
This would not have been the first time the chain has taken such precautions. It did the same in June after protests erupted over the police slaying of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Walmart also stopped selling handgun and military-style ammunition in September 2019 after a white supremacist murdered 22 people in one of its stores in El Paso, Texas.
The chain stopped selling assault weapons in 2015 and raised the age to purchase guns from 18 to 21, CBS News reported. The company also asked customers not to openly carry guns into its stores.
Firearms sales have been soaring, including among Black Americans and first-time gun owners. There has been a 50 percent increase in gun purchases by Black Americans nationwide, an article in the Petoskey News Review stated, citing a study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Before the race reversal, some social media users said it was “frightening” that a retailer like Walmart had to remove guns because of so much unrest.
“The necessity is terrifying,” tweeted a user identified as Maximilian Hess. “Customers can still buy them, they just won’t be displayed. So, Walmart is worried about looting. Rightfully so, but damn, this country’s gone bonkers,” wrote user @ExcusedEarly.
One user thought the move was racially motivated. “TRANSLATION: Too many black people were buying guns and we can’t have that…” wrote user @Max_Hess.
There have been calls for Walmart to stop selling guns and ammunition altogether. However, CEO Doug McMillon said there is still a market for them.
While McMillon said “the status quo is unacceptable” in an open letter he penned to employees after the El Paso Shooting, as a gun owner, he stopped short of pulling all firearms from their inventory.