Walmart returns guns to store floors as unrest “isolated”

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Walmart on Friday said it is returning guns and ammunition to store floors, describing incidents of what the retailer called “civil unrest” in several of its stores earlier this week as “isolated.”

The move comes a day after Walmart said it had pulled firearms and ammo from store displays. A Walmart is among scores of stores looted amid two nights of protests that followed a fatal shooting Monday by police in Philadelphia. 

“After civil unrest earlier this week resulted in damage to several of our stores, consistent with actions we took over the summer, we asked stores to move firearms and ammunition from the sales floor to a secure location in the back of the store in an abundance of caution,” a Walmart spokesperson said by email. “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 also removed firearms and ammo from stores in June after several of its stores were damaged in protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

The nation’s biggest retailer remains a major seller of guns and ammunition, although it has scaled back, selling firearms in roughly half of its 4,700 U.S. stores. 

Walmart stopped selling ammunition that can be used in semiautomatic rifles and handguns after a 2019 shooting at one of its stores in El Paso, Texas, killed 23 people. The company stopped selling assault-style weapons in 2015 and raised the minimum age to buy firearms and ammunition to 21, from 18, in 2018. It stopped selling handguns everywhere but Alaska in 1993, and ended its sales of rifles like the AR-15 in 2015.

Background checks show surge in gun sales 04:29

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon has resisted pressure that he take his company out of the gun business altogether, saying last year that its remaining assortment of firearms will focus on hunting and sport shooting.

Consumer demand for firearms has jumped this year. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry trade group, estimates there were a record 12.1 million background checks for gun purchases from January through July, up nearly 72% from 7.1 million gun checks in the year-ago period.

Forty percent of firearms sales involves purchasers who’d never owned a gun, according to a NSSF survey of firearm retailers. It concludes that almost 5 million Americans bought a gun for the first time in 2020. 

Gun dealers reported a surge in firearm sales this spring as the coronavirus was spreading. “If martial law was declared, they want to be prepared to protect their homes,” one dealer told CBS MoneyWatch at the time. “With this coronavirus, there is a fear of the unknown.”

Before COVID-19, firearm sales had tumbled in recent years in part because of fewer concerns among gun buyers about stricter regulation under President Donald Trump. A rash of mass shootings around the country also has driven some large companies and retailers to stop doing business with the gun industry.

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