Amidst the continued riots and looting in Philadelphia this week, Walmart has quietly removed guns and ammunition from their sporting goods sections in stores across the country. WRKN in Nashville was the first to report on the move by the retail giant, which has already taken several steps in recent years to stop selling many firearms and common calibers of ammunition.
Unlike those moves, which were designed to put Walmart on the “gunsense” side of the gun control debate, the most recent decision by Walmart seems based on concerns that firearms and ammunition may be stolen during riots and looting.
“It’s important to note that we only sell firearms in approximately half of our stores, primarily where there are large concentrations of hunters, sportsmen, and sportswomen. 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. These items do remain available for purchase by customers.”
While Walmart’s decision doesn’t appear to be steeped in gun control ideology, it’s still a bit of security theater. If these items are still available for purchase, that means that the guns and ammo are still somewhere in the store. I don’t have any personal experience with looting, but I can’t imagine that looters only stick to the front of the house and the sales floor. I’m guessing they roam through the storage in the back of shops as well, so I don’t know how successful Walmart’s move will be in actually preventing any thefts of firearms or ammunition if a store is targeted by looters, as recently happened in Philadelphia.
SKYFOX was over the scene on Castor Street and Aramingo Avenue on Tuesday night. People were seen pouring from the storefront with armfuls of merchandise and large items such as televisions.
Dozens of cars jammed the parking lot and weaved through traffic which added to the chaotic scene. As police arrived, one car with a stolen television on its hood fled with such speed that the television slipped off the roof and smashed on the ground. A woman was also seen abandoning a stolen television as officers closed in.
FOX 29’s Steve Keeley on Wednesday morning saw the wake of destruction left inside the Walmart. A store security person told Keeley that some looters broke through the roof, which caused an overhead water pipe to burst and flood the store. More waterpipes were broken in the customer restrooms and added to the water damage.
The ransacked shelves and pharmacy counter caused wet debris to float throughout the store and into the parking lot. Cashboxes from registers were stolen and at least one ATM was exploded. Vending machines and glass windows and doors were smashed.
You can see why Walmart’s concerned, and I don’t blame them for taking the extra precaution even if I’m not convinced it will do much to deter looters.
As for smaller stores, WRKN spoke to a local gun store owner in Nashville who says he doesn’t think many shops will be taking the same drastic step of pulling guns and ammo off store shelves.
“A lot of your smaller stores have more adequate security where we don’t have to do that,” said Goodlettsville Gun Shop owner Phillip Arrington. “A lot of the Walmarts stay open 24 hours.”
Customers will find guns and ammo on display at his store where sales are continuing to climb this year.
“Gun sales have been off the charts industry-wide for 2020,” Arrington said. “A lot of people have asked me – because I’ve been in the industry so long – ‘how does this compare to say Y2K or Sandy Hook, or the Clinton years with gun bans?’ and what I tell them is you wrap all those sales up over the years and you compare them to 2020 and 2020 kind of knocks them out of the ballpark.”
Arrington said right now they are trying to keep up with demand but supplies present a challenge.
“This is a year that’s been the hardest for anybody in the industry to get firearms and ammunition – just the supplies are just so low, it makes it tremendously hard to keep product on the shelves,” he said.
He explained that a lot is happening this year driving people to buy guns even if they never did before.
“Election years are always busy but this year when you have a pandemic and you have civil unrest and stuff like that, the crime and looting, that tends to scare folks,” said Arrington.
Yes it does. We likely won’t know the October NICS numbers until Monday, but there’s no doubt that they will show yet another record-setting month in terms of firearm sales. Every headline of a Walmart being looted, buildings burned, or ATM’s being blown up creates more new gun owners as Americans’ unease grows. Ultimately, while Walmart may be taking precautions by moving guns and ammo off the sales floor, millions of their customers are taking precautions by moving guns and ammo into their homes for the very first time.