One day after announcing it had removed all guns and ammunition from store shelves because of fears of “civil unrest,” Walmart said Friday it had begun putting those items back on sales floors.
The retail giant said it originally instructed store managers to move firearms and ammunition from in-store displays to a secure location in the back “in an abundance of caution.” The company said several of its stores had been damaged earlier in the week during protests. According to local media in Philadelphia, at least one Walmart location had been ransacked after rioting broke out following the police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man whose family said he was in the midst of a mental health crisis.
“As the current incidents have remained geographically isolated, we have made the decision to begin returning these products to the sales floor today,” Walmart said in a statement.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer sells firearms at about half of its 4,700 U.S. stores. It stopped selling handguns and ammunition for military-style rifles last September, after shootings at company stores left at least 24 people dead. Walmart also began prohibiting customers from openly carrying firearms in its stores and said it would push Congress to pass tighter gun-control laws.
The fall announcement spurred a number of other major retailers, including Kroger, CVS, Walgreens and Wegmans, to tighten their open-carry policies, but it also drew backlash from some of its most loyal customers, who said they no longer felt welcome at the company’s stores.
“The gun owners of America are not fooled,” Tom Gresham, the host of nationally syndicated radio show “Gun Talk,” told The Washington Post last year. “Walmart has staked out its position in the culture wars, and we, the 100 million gun owners who don’t commit crimes, are like, wait a minute, you just threw us under the bus.”