Several more of the country’s most ubiquitous retail chains said this week that they will ask customers to refrain from openly carrying guns in their stores, marking a notable shift in the debate about the presence of guns in everyday life in the United States.
CVS Health requested in a statement that customers, other than authorized law enforcement personnel, do not bring firearms into their stores.
Walgreens did as well.
Both chains noted that they were joining other retailers in the request.
Wegmans, a supermarket chain with 99 stores mainly in the northeast, noted its request on Twitter.
“The sight of someone with a gun can be alarming, and we don’t want anyone to feel that way at Wegmans,” the tweet said.
The wave of announcements began on Tuesday, when Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, said it would stop selling ammunition that can be used in military-style rifles as well as all handgun ammunition, and it would discourage customers from openly carrying guns in states where it is legal to do so.
Shortly after Walmart’s announcement, the grocery chain Kroger said it too was requesting that its customers not carry weapons into its stores.
Doug McMillon, Walmart’s chief executive, said in a statement that the changes were made in the wake of the Aug. 3 shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, which left 22 people dead.
He noted that after the shooting, there were several episodes “where individuals attempting to make a statement and test our response have entered our stores carrying weapons in a way that frightened or concerned our associates and customers.”
He added that even some well-intentioned customers had inadvertently caused alarm, triggering evacuations and law enforcement mobilizations.
“We believe the opportunity for someone to misinterpret a situation, even in open-carry states, could lead to tragic results,” McMillon said.
The Walmart statement noted that there was no change in regard to concealed carry by customers with permits, and said that new signs would be posted about the policy in the coming weeks.
But it remained unclear exactly how store employees might be asked to respond to openly armed customers.
“We will treat law-abiding customers with respect, and we will have a very non-confrontational approach,” the statement said.
Gun laws vary widely, but more than 40 states allow some form of open-carry, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun control advocacy group.
Some states require special permits or for the weapon to be unloaded, or restrict open-carry policies in cities.
Shannon Watts, the founder of the gun-control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, called open-carry “a dangerous and culturally reprehensible practice” and applauded the companies for taking action.
“Ultimately this is about getting companies to protect their customers when lawmakers aren’t protecting their constituents,” she said in a phone interview.
The National Rifle Association strongly criticized Walmart’s statement, saying it was “shameful to see Walmart succumb to the pressure of the anti-gun elites.”
“Lines at Walmart will soon be replaced by lines at other retailers who are more supportive of America’s fundamental freedoms,” the organization predicted in a statement on Tuesday.
Attribution:The New York Times