In the immediate aftermath of the shootings in El Paso, Texas, which took place largely at a Walmart shopping complex, a number of celebrities and activists took to social media to urge the nation’s largest retailer to quit selling firearms and ammunition.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) August 3, 2019
Alyssa Milano is going to be disappointed because Walmart has quietly announced there will be no changes to its policy on selling firearms and ammunition going forward.
Walmart Inc.has no plans to stop selling guns or ammunition, or change any other retail or security practice following the Aug. 3 shooting that killed at least 20 and wounded 26 shoppers at an El Paso, Texas store, a spokesman for the company said Sunday.
“Our focus has always been on being a responsible seller of firearms,” company spokesman Randy Hargrove said in an interview. “We go beyond federal law requiring all customers to pass a background check before purchasing any firearm.”
He added that in 2015 Walmart stopped selling what he called “modern sporting rifles,” which generally refers to military-style semi-automatic rifles. It also removed from its website any air gun or toy that might resemble assault weapons, he said.
Last year, Walmart raised the minimum age for gun purchases to 21 from 18, he said. Hargrove said Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer, doesn’t break out data on gun sales.
As the company spokesman notes, Walmart has already put several policies in place more restrictive than state or federal laws. I know many gun owners who don’t buy any firearms or ammunition from Walmart out of principle as a result. I also know folks whose only retail option for miles is their local Walmart who continue to patronize the business.
It’s worth noting, however, that one gun control law passed in New Mexico has forced the retailer out of the firearms business. Because a new “universal background check” law in the state requires Walmart to conduct background checks on private transfers of firearms, the company announced several weeks ago that it would simply stop selling guns instead.
“New Mexico’s new firearms law would require Walmart stores in New Mexico to conduct background checks for private-party transfers, which our stores are not designed to do due to the safety risks to our associates and our customers,” Tiffany Wilson, director of communications at Walmart, told CBS News in a statement. “The company has decided to surrender its federal firearms licenses and will no longer sell firearms in our New Mexico stores.”
According to the outlet, Walmart will stop selling guns in New Mexico on July 22 but will continue to sell ammunition. Any firearms left after July 22 will be transferred or sold to locations in other states.
New Mexico’s “universal background check” law hasn’t led to any arrests in the month or so it’s been on the books, but it has already taken away the biggest firearms retailer in the state. It seems likely that we’d see the same thing happen in other states that adopt the “universal background check” laws and require federal gun licensees to conduct the checks on private transfers. While that’s certainly a problem if you’re a gun owner it’s a bonus if you’re Alyssa Milano or the average anti-gun activist, and all the more reason politicians should be aware of the unintended consequences of mandating background checks on private transfers of firearms.