Local shoppers react to Walmart’s new gun policies

The Walmart store on West Tennessee Street. Photo Submitted by Catherine Bryant

After weeks of pressure from gun control advocates, Walmart has discontinued the sale of handgun ammunition and semi-automatic weapon ammunition in all stores across the United States. Walmart has also requested that customers no longer openly carry their weapons in states where open carry is legal.

Walmart employees received a memo Tuesday from CEO Doug McMillon with an in-depth “…response to the tragedies in El Paso and Southaven.” The memo outlined the series of new gun policies that will be implemented in the company’s nearly 5,000 stores nationwide. McMillon also mentioned that they will cease the sale of handguns in Alaska, the only remaining state where handguns were sold.

Walmart has a long history of modifying its gun policy according to the times. It ceased selling handguns in 1993 with the exception of Alaska.

It modified its gun policy again in 2015, discontinuing sales of semi-automatic weapons such as the AR-15 rifle. After the tragic mass shooting in 2018 at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, it raised the minimum age to purchase firearms and ammunition from 18 to 21 years of age.

Robert Little, who has been a sales floor associate in sporting goods at Walmart for 22 years, says he definitely noticed the effects of raising the minimum age to buy firearms and ammunition at his store on West Tennessee Street.

“We used to sell guns a lot, but ever since the age requirement changed from 18 to 21, sales have been cut a lot,” Little said. “A lot of college students used to come in and purchase them for home protection and stuff.”

Little also said that customers have come in and expressed frustration about the most recent change in policy as they will be forced to buy their ammunition at a more expensive price from other gun retailers. Little said, “I just have to explain to them what we are doing.”

Some customers at the Walmart on West Tennessee Street appeared in opposition or indifferent to the change in policy and many of them were not yet aware of the changes.

“I think they are taking a political stance as a company and they shouldn’t,” said Anne-Marie Brown, a customer at Walmart. “I feel like it just makes it harder for people to purchase ammunition to protect themselves, I don’t think it makes Walmart any safer.”

“I’ll always love ‘Wally World’ but I don’t think it makes sense for them to not sell handgun ammunition and still continue selling shotguns and shotgun ammunition,” said Tara Johnson another Walmart customer. “I feel like people use them equally for protection. If they’re gonna sell one they might as well sell the other.”

Jasmine Gilstrap, yet another customer, wasn’t too worked up about the policy change. “The first thing that comes to my mind with this is indifference,” she said. “I don’t think it really affects the safety of the public or Walmart customers. As far us gun violence, I think it needs to go higher than Walmart. It would make me feel safer if I actually saw trained law enforcement in stores.”

Keiala Wilson, a customer service manager at the West Tennessee Street Walmart and a FAMU alumna, said that Walmart is taking more measures to increase security.

“Every so often we have sheriffs come in and sit by the front door and on the back line to make sure everyone stays safe,” Wilson said.

Signage for the new policies had not yet been put up in the store.