The country’s largest retailer is removing firearms and ammunition from its shelves “out of an abundance of caution” in anticipation of “civil unrest” following the election on Nov. 3.
“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,” Walmart said in a statement.
Some Democrats and media outlets have suggested that President Donald Trump will not concede a loss during the 2020 election, while other groups and individuals have made plans to instigate mass riots and protests should Trump win re-election.
While the retailer’s selection of guns and ammo will still be available for purchase by customers, the items will no longer be shelved or displayed throughout the store. It is unclear when the merchandise will be on shelves again.
Walmart, which sells firearms in at least half of its stores, also pulled guns and ammo from stores following the death of George Floyd when riots broke out in cities across the nation.
Just this week, a Walmart in Philadelphia was looted, stripping shelves clean by Black Lives Matter rioters in the name of racial justice for an armed black man shot and killed by police.
The Walmart and Five Below are being re-looted after police left the area pic.twitter.com/IRVdhHGXLb
— Shelby Talcott (@ShelbyTalcott) October 28, 2020
In 2019, Walmart removed handguns, handgun ammunition, and some rifle ammunition from stores after a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas killed 23 people. The company moved to only carrying shotguns, long-barrel deer rifles, and other ammo supply for customers interested in hunting and shooting sports.
“Our remaining assortment will be even more focused on the needs of hunting and sport shooting enthusiasts,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a memo.
The retailer also urged its customers to refrain from openly carrying firearms in their stores, but said that it would still allow concealed carry for those who are permitted to do so.
“We will treat law-abiding customers with respect, and we will have a very non-confrontational approach,” McMillon added.
There is an increasing demand for guns in the United States in 2020, leaving certain merchandise supplies depleted. Since COVID-19 lockdowns began in March and widespread rioting began in May, federal firearm background checks for this year reached 28.82 million this month, surpassing last year’s record of 28.36 million.
While these background checks are not exclusive to firearm sales, they are required for gun purchases through federal firearms licensees (FFL), which the National Shooting Sports Foundation reports had a 61 percent increase compared to background checks issued for gun sales in September of 2019.
Updated 10/30 4:41 p.m.
On Friday afternoon, Walmart reversed its previous decision to pull firearms and ammo off the floors of its stores, claiming that the previously identified “civil unrest” referred to in its original memo only applied to “isolated” incidents.