The CEO of Walmart said this week that the company has not fielded many complaints from customers following its decision to change up its policies on firearms and ammunition.
In September the nation’s largest retailer announced that it would ban the sale of all handgun ammunition as well as .223/5.56, discontinue the sale of handguns, and politely ask customers to refrain from open carrying in store locations in any state where the practice is lawful.
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon was asked by CNBC Tuesday whether there’s been customer blow-back as a result, to which he responded, “A little bit. But no, not much. I think most people understand that we’re not trying to make a political statement here. We’re just trying to help create a safer environment.”
The new policies were spurred by shootings over the summer at store locations in Mississippi, where two people were killed, and El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed. On Monday, there was another deadly incident outside a Walmart in Oklahoma that left three people dead, including the gunman.
“It’s tragic, this most recent event. It looks like a personal situation played out in our parking lot,” McMillon said. “But El Paso really thrust us into a situation that we wouldn’t have anticipated.”
McMillon said the company “took some time to think through what we needed to do” following the August tragedy in El Paso.
“Our first focus was on caring for the associates that were impacted and the customers’ families that were impacted and all the things related to that,” he continued. “It’s a very divisive issue, obviously.”
Walmart has also voiced support for tougher gun laws at the federal level, including universal background checks that criminalize private transfers and red flag orders that allow law enforcement to confiscate firearms from individuals accused — not convicted — of being a threat to themselves or others.
Additionally, the company called on lawmakers to debate the reauthorization of the “Assault Weapons ban” to “determine its effectiveness.”
“We think there needs to be change” in the nation’s gun laws while also “protecting the rights of gun owners,” McMillon explained.
Walmart accounts for approximately 20 percent of ammo sales nationwide. After it sells out its stock of .223/.556, its market share will likely drop to about 6 percent, McMillion estimated.
Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association sees Walmart’s new position as a boon for its competitors.
“Lines at Walmart will soon be replaced by lines at other retailers who are more supportive of America’s fundamental freedoms,” said the NRA in a statement.