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Gun rights activists say new Walmart policy not stopping open carry

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Thousands of people have been able to openly bring their guns into Walmart even though the retailer is now asking people to stop open carrying in its stores, according to a gun advocacy group in Texas.

Walmart announced changes to its gun carrying policies in September after two deadly shootings in Walmart stores in Texas and Mississippi in August that left 24 people dead.

Doug McMillion, Walmart’s CEO, then said in a memo to employees that the company was “respectfully requesting” that customers stop openly carrying firearms into its stores.

Read more: Walmart will bar shoppers from openly carrying guns in its stores and stop selling some ammunition in response to 2 deadly shootings

But he did not say that doing so would be banned outright, and a spokesperson then told Business Insider that store managers will be able to decide how to handle situations and that those openly carrying may not always be asked to leave.

Antonio Basco cries beside a cross at a makeshift memorial near the scene of a mass shooting in which his wife was killed in a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, in August 2019.
Associated Press

Gun rights activists are now testing if the policy is able to be enforced, accusing Walmart of trying to appease people who want greater gun control measures while not making any real changes to what customers can do.

David Amad, the vice president of Open Carry Texas, told The New York Times that many of his group’s 38,000 members had openly carried their guns into Walmart stores and that none were asked to leave.

“They are ducking the issue,” he told the Times.

“They are trying to get the gun haters to leave them alone, while at the same time leave us alone when we carry in their stores.”

Joseph Barbarito holds a sign as he waits for protesters to deliver a petition signed by around 300,000 people to Walmart calling on the retailer to stop selling assault weapons and munitions in 2013.
REUTERS/ Michelle McLoughlin

Lorenzo Lopez, a Walmart spokesman, told the Times that he was not aware of more customers openly carrying guns in the company’s’ stores since the policy was announced, and said employees should call the police if either they or a customer feels unsafe.

Read more: I tried to buy a gun at Walmart twice, and roadblocks left me empty-handed both times

Walmart also announced that it was ending the sale of some forms of ammunition, though it would continue to sell its rifles and shotguns. The company stopped selling assault-style semi-automatic rifles in 2015, blaming a lack of demand.

“We know these decisions will inconvenience some of our customers, and we hope they will understand,” McMillon said. “As a company, we experienced two horrific events in one week, and we will never be the same.”

He also said that he had written to lawmakers to encourage debate around stronger gun control.

The policy was an about-face for the company, which had said a week after the shootings that it had no plans to change its policies.

Walmart’s decision set off a tide of retailers asking customers not to open carry in their stores

Two other major retailers announced on Tuesday that they would also ask customers to not openly carry in stores, joining a growing number of retailers that have started to make the request from customers but are not announcing an enforced ban.

Aldi USA said it would ask customers not to carry weapons in its stores, citing “the safety of our employees, customers and the community.”

“Alongside many other businesses, we are asking that our customers refrain from openly displaying firearms in any of our stores, except for authorized law enforcement personnel,” a statement said.

Read more: Walmart workers grapple with heightened fears in the aftermath of deadly shootings

Meijer, a chain in the Midwest, also joined in, saying: “The safety of our customers and team members is our top priority, so we respectfully request that our customers do not open carry firearms at Meijer.

“We’ve made this decision because open carry can create an environment that makes our customers and team members feel unsafe.”

An Aldi store.
Andrew Weber/AP Photo

CVS, Walgreens, and Kroger all also followed Walmart’s lead and announced in September that they were changing their policies, all saying that they were asking customers not to open carry.

Read more: The NRA called Walmart’s new stance on guns ‘shameful’ and predicted it would cause shoppers to flee, but a new poll shows the retail giant could benefit from the changes

Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the Times that the retailers would be able to ban people from openly carrying guns in their stores if they wanted to as the stores are private property.

“A retailer can refuse service to anyone so long as it is not on the basis of race, religion or another protected group. That does not apply to gun owners.”

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