On Tuesday, Walmart announced big changes to its sales of ammunition in response to shootings at its stores. (Courtesy of Walmart)
Salem’s three Walmart stores will no longer sell certain ammunition and will ask that people to not openly display firearms when shopping at its stores.
The dramatic change from the nation’s largest retailer was announced Tuesday, a month after a mass shooting at one of its stores.
Walmart said it would stop selling handgun ammunition and will also cut back on some ammunition that can be used in “military-style” weapons, such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber. Those changes will go into effect as the individual stores sell out their current stock of bullets.
Salem has Walmart stores on Northeast Lancaster Drive, Southeast Turner Road and Southeast Commercial Street.
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The company will train managers to ask shoppers to refrain from visibly carrying a gun into the store in states like Oregon where open carry is legal. Spokeswoman Delia Garcia said that policy will go into effect in the coming weeks and months as managers get trained.
“The reality is we’ve had several instances since Aug. 3 where individuals have made a statement or tried to test our response by open carrying in the store,” she said.
Aug. 3 was when a man entered a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and opened fire, killing 22 people before leaving the store and surrendering to police. That shooting came days after a former disgruntled Walmart employee walked into a Mississippi Walmart and shot and killed two employees.
“We’ve experienced two horrific events in one week,” Garcia said. “We will never be the same. That will change our company.”
The company will continue to sell ammunition used for guns more closely associated with hunting, such as shotguns and long-barrel rifles.
It’s a sweeping move for a company that accounts for 20 % of ammunition sales and 2% of gun sales in the country. Walmart expects its market share to decline to between 9% and 6%.
“It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement.
It’s not the first time Walmart has reconsidered its gun policies. Walmart stopped selling assault-style rifles in 2015. Following the El Paso shooting, there were calls for Walmart to address the policy. On Tuesday, the price of its shares remained largely unchanged, rising by a third of a percent.
“We recently recognized that we have a responsibility in this conversation,” Garcia said.
In his statement, McMillon said he sent letters to Congress and the White House asking political leaders to act as well.
In the weeks since the El Paso shooting, people have caused issues by open carrying in Walmarts around the country, either as a political statement or just habit. It’s caused police to be called and stores to be evacuated, Garcia said.
Going forward, individual stores will work with local government to determine appropriate signage to discourage open carrying. When someone does come in displaying a gun, a trained manager will intervene, Garcia said. The goal is to be nonconfrontational, Garcia said, but Walmarts are private property and managers will call law enforcement if needed.
“The issue here is safety,” she said.
While Oregon is an open carry state, Salem Police Lt. Debbie Aguilar said there have been no reports to police about anyone openly carrying a gun at a Walmart or anywhere else in the city in the past year.
Aguilar said there have been 2nd Amendment rallies near the Capitol, but any 911 calls regarding that would be routed to the Oregon State Police.
Oregon Firearms Federation Executive Director Kevin Starrett said the new policy change shows Walmart wasn’t a responsible dealer. He said some of the banned ammunition is popular rifle ammo.
“Clearly their policy is a pointless, directionless attempt at political correctness,” Starrett said. “And it’s laughable as a response to mass killings.”
Starrett said he applauds the decision, as it brings more opportunity to more knowledgeable retailers.
“Walmart can concentrate on what they do best - serving customers who shop in their pajamas,” he said.
Reporter Aubrey Wieber: [email protected] or 503-575-1251.