Walmart has removed all guns and ammunition from the roughly half of its 4,700 U.S. stores that sell firearms, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. "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," spokesman Kory Lundberg said in a statement. The company has not decided how the items will stay off the shelves, he added, but customers can still buy guns and ammo upon request at participating locations.
Walmart gave the order to managers on Wednesday, saying the decision was "due to the current unrest in isolated areas of the country and out of an abundance of caution." The company did not say what isolated incidents it had in mind, but post-protest looters in Philadelphia hit a Walmart store. Walmart similarly pulled guns off its shelf after the police killing of George Floyd over the summer. Walmart did not mention the election, but law enforcement and state election agencies are bracing for violent confrontations after next week's presidential results come in.
Gun sales have risen sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic and summer of peaceful protests and adjacent violence sparked by the police killings of numerous Black Americans. The National Shooting Sport Foundation says 12.1 million people underwent firearm background checks between January and July, up 72 parent from the first half of 2019. The NSSF also found that 58 percent of the 5 million Americans buying their first firearm are Black.
Walmart has slowly pared back its firearms offerings over the years, ending handgun sales in the 1990s (and last year in Alaska), pulling assault-style rifles and the ammunition they use, and raising its gun-buying age to 21.