The world’s largest retailer, Walmart, announced a change to its policies Wednesday, saying it would raise the minimum age required to buy a firearm and ammunition and remove any items that resemble assault rifles from its shelves.
In a statement, the company said it would raise its age requirement to 21 from 18, a decision it made “in light of recent events” — most notable the national discussion about gun control since the Feb. 14 shooting at a high school in Florida that left 17 people dead.
“We take seriously our obligation to be a responsible seller of firearms and go beyond Federal law by requiring customers to pass a background check before purchasing any firearm,” the company said.
The move is the latest by a private company to address increasingly loud grievances about the availability of guns in the absence of meaningful legislative action. Earlier in the day, Dick’s Sporting Goods, announced that it would stop selling assault rifles and high-capacity magazines and raise the minimum age it requires to buy a gun to 21.
The suspect in the Parkland, Fla., shooting purchased a gun legally at Dick’s in November, officials said. But the AR-15 used in the shooting had been purchased at another store, raising questions about the efficacy of policy changes at individual stores and chains.
Though Walmart had stopped selling assault rifles in 2015, it said it would now also remove guns that resemble such weapons from its website, such as airsoft guns and toys.
Gun control has been a topic of public discourse after every mass shooting. But the bloodshed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and the persistent and organized rallies by student survivors have reinvigorated the debate over whether guns should be more thoroughly regulated nationwide.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Feb. 20 found that support for some gun-control measures is at its highest level since the survey on the issue began after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Some 66 percent of Americans support stricter gun laws, the poll found, and 67 percent support a ban on assault weapons.
Still, Congress has remained gridlocked in the face of steadfast resistance from Republican lawmakers, the majority of whom have viewpoints that are closely aligned with the National Rifle Association lobbying group.
Public backlash against the NRA has been building as well. More than a dozen companies, including United Airlines, Delta, Best Western and MetLife, have cut corporate discounts and other perks for NRA members since the shooting.
Graphic, from 2015: The number of mass shootings in the U.S. depends on how you count