Walmart announced on Tuesday morning that it will ask customers not to openly carry firearms into its stores, potentially affecting locations in Arizona, where people are allowed to carry firearms both openly and concealed without requiring permits.
In a written statement published on the company’s website, CEO Doug McMillon announced the company would also discontinue sales of .223 and 5.56 caliber ammunition — as well as handgun ammunition — after selling its current inventory.
McMillon noted that while some hunting rifles use .223 and 5.56 ammunition, military-style rifles with high-capacity clips that have been used in mass shootings use them as well.
The announcement comes exactly one month after a man armed with the semiautomatic, civilian version of an AK-47 opened fire inside an El Paso, Texas, Walmart, killing 22 people and injuring another 24.
As for the company’s new policy on openly carrying firearms within stores, McMillon mentioned incidents where a customer legally carrying a firearm accidentally caused a store evacuation and law enforcement to be called.
“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 wrote.
Arizona’s open-carry laws allow anyone legally able to posses a firearm to carry it in most public spaces and businesses unless the business posts a sign prohibiting them at the entrance. The signs have to comply with Arizona liquor law and are provided by the Arizona Department of Liquor.
“We believe the opportunity for someone to misinterpret a situation, even in open carry states, could lead to tragic results,” McMillon added. “We hope that everyone will understand the circumstances that led to this new policy and will respect the concerns of their fellow shoppers and our associates.”
Customers will still be allowed to carry concealed weapons in stores where it’s legal, McMillon said. Arizona doesn’t require people to possess a permit to carry concealed weapons, though the Arizona Department of Public Safety still issues them as a number of other states that require permits legally recognize Arizona’s.
When asked how the new policy will affect stores in Arizona, Delia Garcia, a company spokesperson, told The Arizona Republic that it will post new signs and implement a “very non-confrontational approach.”
“Having said that, a member of management should evaluate each situation and address it appropriately,” Garcia said in an email. “If an individual is deemed to be a potential threat to customers and associates, the manager on duty will take necessary precautions and contact law enforcement.”
When asked if Walmart would post signs from the Arizona Department of Liquor prohibiting firearms that businesses often use, Garcia said the company was still working on the signage and didn’t know when it would post them.
“As you can appreciate, requirements for signage vary by state and local jurisdiction,” Garcia wrote. “We want to be sure to get it right from a compliance standpoint.”
McMillon said in his statement that the new signage would be provided to stores “in the coming weeks.”
The Republic contacted several Walmart stores throughout Phoenix where employees confirmed both .223 and 5.56 caliber ammunition were in stock as of Tuesday evening.
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